December 06, 2022

Bears Analysis

Chicago Bears midseason review: Awards for the 1st half of the 2022 season

Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson celebrates his interception of a San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance pass setting up a Bears touchdown during their game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – The first two months of the NFL season have flown by. Through eight games, the Bears are 3-5 and have had plenty of ups and down along the way.

The flurry of trade deadline moves have undoubtedly changed the chemistry of the locker room. The second half of the season could look quite different than the first half.

Still, the eight-game mark is a good place to take stock of where Matt Eberflus’ team is. Below are Shaw Local’s midseason awards, including team MVP, most improved player, rookie of the year and more.

Team MVP: Eddie Jackson

Of all the awards, this was the toughest decision. Everybody has had good moments and bad.

Jackson earns the nod here because of his ability to find the football. In eight games, he has four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He has been a leader and a mentor to a young secondary, notably taking rookie safety Jaquan Brisker under his wing.

He’s have a great turnaround season, exactly the type of season he needed after back-to-back down years in 2020 and 2021. A scheme change to Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense is putting Jackson in optimal positions to find the football.

The running backs (more on them later) have also been good, spurred by a better-than-expected offensive line, but no one individual stands out at those positions like Jackson does at his.

Most improved player: Justin Fields

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields  walks off the field after playing the New York Giants on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J.

This wasn’t looking so likely a month ago. The first four games were rough for Justin Fields. In October, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy found ways to use Fields’ legs more effectively, which has coincided with an increased efficiency throwing the football.

Over his last four games, Fields has completed 64% of his passes for 728 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He has rushed for 277 yards and two touchdowns on 42 attempts (6.6 yards per carry).

Honorable mention in this category goes to lineman Teven Jenkins, who went from barely seeing the field a year ago to starting at right guard.

Most disappointing: Robert Quinn

This has nothing to do with Robert Quinn being traded. His first seven games of the season were forgettable. He had one sack and three QB hits to his name when the Bears traded him to Philadelphia.

To be fair, he faced double teams and it’s difficult to produce at his position when offenses no longer have to worry about Khalil Mack on the other side. Still, Quinn had success last year when Mack was out with a foot injury. Of his 18.5 sacks last year, 13 of them came after Mack was sidelined.

Quinn’s Bears tenure will always be remembered for his team-record 18.5 sacks in 2021. That made his lack of production this season a disappointment.

Rookie of the year: Jaquan Brisker

Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker celebrates his interception with teammates during their Week 7 game against the New England Patriots, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass.

The 48th overall draft pick has stepped into a starting safety role and played admirably. His 51 combined tackles rank fourth on the team. He has been great around the football, too, with three sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.

Brisker’s ability to play near the line of scrimmage and create havoc on blitzes is a big reason why Jackson has had the freedom to play as the deep man.

Honorable mentions here go to Braxton Jones, who has started every game at left tackle.

Best position unit: Running back

The Bears lead the NFL in rushing and it’s not particularly close. Their 188.4 rushing yards per game are nearly 23 yards ahead of the second-place Baltimore Ravens.

Khalil Herbert leads the way with 563 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 91 attempts, while David Montgomery has run for 361 yards and two touchdowns on 92 attempts. Eberflus’ team has a strong commitment to the run and boasts as good a running back duo as anyone in the NFL.

Worst position unit: Defensive line

FILE - Chicago Bears linebacker Robert Quinn reacts during the fourth quarter of against the New York Giants, on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. The undefeated Philadelphia Eagles acquired three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn from the Bears on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the teams haven’t officially announced the move. Chicago gets a fourth-round pick in return. The NFL Network and ESPN first reported the trade.

Even before the Bears traded Quinn, the defensive line was frustrating. No defensive lineman has more than two sacks. Justin Jones and Trevis Gipson both have exactly two.

Eberflus’ 4-3 defense is most effective when it rushes only four defenders, but it’s not working. The Bears simply haven’t created pressure without blitzing. Trading Roquan Smith is only going to exacerbate the issue because Smith was one of the team’s best blitzers.

Offensive play of the season so far: Field’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Pettis

One play in particular encapsulates everything that is exciting about Fields. It came way back in Week 1.

Fields escaped pressure from both sides of the pocket, spun to avoid a sack, kept his eyes down field and made a throw across his body to find receiver Dante Pettis on the far side of the field. Pettis followed a blocker into the end zone for a 51-yard score against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.

The touchdown sparked a surprising comeback victory over one of the best teams in the NFC.

Defensive play of the season so far: Roquan Smith’s interception vs. Houston

In a tie game with 1:12 remaining, Smith jumped a route, picked off Houston quarterback David Mills and nearly returned it for a touchdown. The Texans tripped him up at the 12-yard line. It set up a chip-shot field goal for kicker Cairo Santos to win the game.

That game could’ve gone either way. The Bears escaped with a win and improved to 2-1.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.