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. 19 Justin Jones
Position: Defensive tackle
NFL experience: Fifth season
Last year’s ranking: N/A
Looking back: The Bears signed defensive tackle Justin Jones after four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, who drafted Jones with a third-round pick in 2018. Jones mostly came off the bench as a rookie in 2018 but blossomed into a starter over the following three seasons. He started 11 games last year and recorded three sacks, five tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
Although Jones played in a different scheme under head coach Brandon Staley with the Chargers, the Bears saw the type of light, quick defensive tackle who could play the 3-technique position in a 4-3 scheme. He wasn’t the team’s first choice for the position. That was tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who failed his physical and recently signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the Bears pivoted and signed Jones on a relatively cheap two-year, $12 million deal.
Looking forward: As Jones said during the spring practice period, the 3-technique is the anchor for head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defensive scheme. The Bears are hoping that Jones can be a penetrator who can slip between offensive linemen and cause some chaos in the backfield. If Jones does turn out to be a solid 3-technique, his contract will be a bargain. If he plays through the 2022 season and it’s not working out as planned, it won’t cost the Bears much to move on from the deal in a year or two.
Jones is only 25, but he talks like and acts like an older leader on this defense. He has been through four years of professional football. He is the type of mentor who can relate to younger players. This is a young Bears team with a lot of unproven talent. Jones has been eager to help guide the way. If he can channel that leadership and put together an even better season than he did a year ago, the Bears will be really happy with this signing.