Rookie review: A look at how the Chicago Bears’ rookies fared in 2023

8 Bears rookies played in 12 games or more in 2023

Chicago Bears offensive tackle Darnell Wright looks into the stands as he comes onto the field before their preseason game against the Tennessee Titans Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

In general manager Ryan Poles’ second year at the helm, the Bears drafted 10 rookies in the 2023 NFL Draft. Eight of them played in 12 games or more.

Team president Kevin Warren noted in his end-of-season news conference that he liked how coach Matt Eberflus wasn’t afraid to play the rookies. Since the moment Poles traded former star pass rusher Khalil Mack, the Bears have been in the midst of a total rebuild. The early stage – a reminder here that 2023 was still the early stages – required some growing pains with young players.

“That’s one of the things that impressed me about Matt,” Warren said. “Many coaches will not play rookies, or they shy away from it. But having those rookies play, you saw it toward the end of the year, that is going to play major dividends not only next year, but also into the future.”

Having those rookies play, you saw it toward the end of the year, that is going to play major dividends not only next year, but also into the future.”

—  Kevin Warren, Bears team president

So far, the 2023 rookie class has been a huge success for the Bears. The Bears saw big contributions from their top draft picks, and they found a competent backup quarterback from the pile of undrafted players.

Here’s a look at how the Bears’ rookies fared in 2023.

OT Darnell Wright

No. 10 overall pick Darnell Wright was everything the Bears hoped he would be during his rookie season. He had no trouble slotting into the starting lineup as the right tackle. Wright missed only a few offensive snaps all season on his way to an All-Rookie performance, as voted on by Pro Football Writers of America.

Wright held his own at the NFL level and Poles fully expects him to keep improving with more reps.

“He’s out there just using his natural ability,” Poles said on Jan. 10. “In a lot of games, that was good enough, but there were some games and some reps where it wasn’t good enough, and he’s got to continue to get better, and I know he’s going to put the time in.”

Shaw Local grade: A

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Zacch Pickens (left) and defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. listen to a coach during their preseason game against the Tennessee Titans Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

DT Gervon Dexter

Second-round draft pick Gervon Dexter, who the Bears selected 53rd overall, was the classic example of a rookie who improved as the year went along. All of Dexter’s 2.5 sacks came during the second half of the season. He had a quarterback hit in seven of the final eight contests. According to Pro Football Reference, Dexter had 17 QB pressures during the season.

Dexter, who turned 22 in October, had to learn a completely new technique after playing in a very different defensive scheme in college at Florida.

“He started to affect the quarterback more, he started to affect the run more, so I really like his growth process,” Poles said.

Shaw Local grade: B

CB Tyrique Stevenson

Tyrique Stevenson went 56th overall in the draft, just three picks after Dexter. The Bears gave up a fifth-round pick in order to trade up five spots to grab Stevenson. Much like Dexter, Stevenson improved as the year went along. He wound up with four interceptions and two forced fumbles, and they all came during the second half of the season. Like all cornerbacks, Stevenson made some mistakes and got beat from time to time. That said, his potential is evident.

Shaw Local grade: B

DT Zacch Pickens

With the first pick of the third round, the Bears took another defensive tackle. Zacch Pickens saw action in all 17 games but played much less than Dexter. Pickens usually played about 10 to 20 defensive snaps per game. He finished the season with half a sack, two QB hits, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble. Pickens will have to show more in the future if he’s going to take on a bigger role in the defensive line rotation.

Shaw Local grade: C-

Chicago Bears running back Roschon Johnson fends off Green Bay Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon during their game Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

RB Roschon Johnson

Fourth-round pick Roschon Johnson emerged as a viable second option for the Bears at running back. He was the most reliable pass catcher of the bunch and looks like he has the tools to become a high-level pass-blocking back. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and finished third on the team in receptions with 34. He’s also a key contributor on special teams. Johnson isn’t ready to be a lead back, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t become that down the line.

Shaw Local grade: B-

WR Tyler Scott

Tyler Scott, another fourth-round pick, saw his playing time fluctuate quite a bit throughout the year. Several times he played more than half the offensive snaps, other games he played fewer than 20% of them. He finished the season with 17 catches for 168 yards on 32 targets. He had some key miscues along the way, including a memorable drop in a rough loss to Detroit. As a kick returner, he averaged 21.6 yards per return on five returns.

Shaw Local grade: D+

Chicago Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent takes a drink during a timeout against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 at Soldier Field.

QB Tyson Bagent

Nobody expects anything out of an undrafted quarterback. The fact that Division II QB Tyson Bagent not only made the team coming out of training camp, but also solidified himself as the primary backup makes this a slam dunk addition. He seems likely to remain the Bears’ backup for 2024 and possibly beyond. Bagent completed 65% of his passes in five appearances, with three touchdowns and six interceptions.

Shaw Local grade: A

Other Bears rookies

  • LB Noah Sewell: Sewell was primarily a special teams contributor. He did not see much time on defense. Shaw Local grade: C
  • CB Terell Smith: For a fifth-round pick, Smith shows promise. He challenged Stevenson, at times, for playing time. He adds nice depth at the cornerback spot. Shaw Local grade: B
  • DT Travis Bell: A seventh-round pick, Bell was on the practice squad until the Falcons signed him to their active roster in November. He later wound up playing for the Bengals. Shaw Local grade: D
  • S Kendall Williamson: Another seventh-round pick, Williamson spent the entire season on the practice squad. The Bears didn’t sign him to a futures contract for 2024. Instead, he signed with the Bills. Shaw Local grade: F
Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.