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. 17 Trevis Gipson
Position: Defensive end
NFL experience: Third season
Last year’s ranking: Missed top 25
Looking back: Bears pass rusher Trevis Gipson had a breakout season in 2021. His seven sacks were second-most on the Bears, behind only the club-record 18.5 sacks from Robert Quinn. Gipson’s five forced fumbles led the team. When Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack injured his foot, Gipson was the next man up who benefited most from Mack’s absence. For a while, the Bears hoped Mack would return, but midway through the season they shut him down and he had surgery on his foot.
Gipson started nine games from late October until the end of the season. He had five of his seven sacks during that stretch. The season was a major success for a player who had been a 2020 fifth-round draft pick out of Tulsa, and who had contributed sparingly as a rookie.
Looking forward: With Mack now out of the picture completely, traded away to the Los Angeles Chargers, Gipson stands on the cusp of an even greater opportunity. There’s some speculation, too, whether the Bears might trade Quinn either before the season or by the trade deadline. If the team were to trade Quinn, Gipson would be the unquestioned leader of this 2022 pass rushing group. Even if the team doesn’t trade Quinn, the trio of Quinn, Gipson and Al-Quadin Muhammad will likely command the majority of the snaps on the edge.
A shift to head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defensive scheme could benefit Gipson, too, who played a similar style in college. In the previous 3-4 scheme, a pass rusher occasionally had to drop into coverage on the running back. Generally, that will no longer be a concern. Gipson can focus on attacking from his three-point stance, from which he says he feels more comfortable, and doesn’t have to worry about dropping into coverage coverage.
If Gipson has another good season in his third year, the Bears can feel a lot more confident about their future at pass rusher. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason why he can’t surpass his production from a year ago.