Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2022 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
For example, Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2022 (or maybe he will be), but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 20 Khari Blasingame
NFL experience: Fourth season
Last year’s ranking: N/A
Looking back: The fullback is making a comeback. It is in some corners of the NFL, anyway. That includes in Chicago. The Bears signed 25-year-old Khari Blasingame away from the Tennessee Titans over the offseason. With a shift to the wide-zone run blocking scheme under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, the Bears are in the midst of a major shift – one that includes a fullback. The wide-zone scheme was popularized by longtime NFL head coach Mike Shanahan and has made a resurgence in recent years with his son Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers’ head coach. The goal is to move the offensive linemen laterally toward the sideline. The fullback plays a central role in leading the way for the running back.
That’s why Blasingame is in Chicago on a one-year contract. He originally signed with Minnesota in 2019 after going undrafted out of Vanderbilt but was cut after training camp and later landed with Tennessee. He spent three seasons in Tennessee, where his main purpose was to block for All-Pro running back Derrick Henry. Blasingame had only three carries and 10 receptions in three years.
Looking forward: Expect to see more I-formation from the Bears under Getsy. Blasingame is a big, burly back who measures in at 6-foot, 233 pounds. He’s here to block for running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. He might see a touch here and there to mix it up, but don’t expect him to have the ball in his hands much. There were times in Tennessee when Blasingame saw upward of a dozen snaps per game.
If the scheme is going to work, the fullback has to be a part of it. The Bears haven’t had a true fullback on the roster in several years. The fullback isn’t going to make or break the run scheme in 2022 – the offensive line will dictate that more than any other position – but Blasingame should play a central role. The Bears needed a fullback, so they went out and signed one who blocked for one of the best running backs in the NFL.