Bears rank dead last in new SI Power Rankings post originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Ask 10 pundits what their expectations are for the Bears this season, and chances are you’ll get 10 answers saying a playoff push is out of the question. Most believe the Bears will range between a bad or middling team. On Wednesday however, Sports Illustrated ranked the Bears as the very worst team in the NFL following the draft. The big fear for SI is that the Bears didn’t add enough playmakers with their picks.
“Velus Jones Jr. isn’t going to fix the Justin Fields situation, even if he was better than any receiver in the country at causing missed tackles (or breaking tackles after the catch, according to Sports Info Solutions),” wrote Conor Orr. “I know I have been a bit of an alarmist about Fields, but it’s difficult to imagine him reclaiming a sense of normalcy this year despite a smart coaching change. Bears fans may feel otherwise, but how did this draft assuage any of our concerns about their young quarterback’s surrounding talent?”
It’s hard to argue against the noticeable lack of help for Fields coming out of the draft, especially with a class that is expected to produce many, many future stars. But the Bears are high on the versatility of playmakers they do have on the roster. That includes sixth-round “running back” Trestan Ebner, who could line up at wideout and should really be described as an athletic swiss-army knife.
Beyond the playmakers however, the Bears have done significant work rebuilding and reshaping the offensive line, and hope to provide Fields with better protection. If that comes to fruition, it will elevate the play of everyone on offense, not just Fields.
Orr doesn't buy what the Bears are selling though.
“Both of its starting tackles will likely be 2021 picks from outside the first round,” Orr wrote. “This could get scary.”
It’s fair to question what Jenkins will bring to the team in 2022 considering his limited playing time as a rookie. But Jenkins has already displayed the nasty streak in the NFL that drew Ryan Pace to him last year, and moving to right tackle this yearー the position he primarily played in collegeー should help too. It’s a bit unfair to simply say things could get scary with Borom on the edge, however. He was pressed into duty on the left side in Week 1 after Jason Peters was hurt, and in 15 snaps Borom looked solid before sustaining an injury of his own. When he returned there were ups and downs, but for the most part he looked like a steal as a fifth-round pick.
You have to consider the additions the Bears made on defense too. Even with Khalil Mack off to Los Angeles, this is a unit that should improve with Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker in the secondary. That was arguably the biggest weakness on the team last year, and it could quickly turn into their biggest strength. If Matt Eberflus’ and Alan Williams’ scheme helps the team create more takeaways, that not only helps take stress off the defense, but gives Fields more chances to score on offense too.
Of course you have to look at the teams around the league, too. The Falcons are primed for a miserable season after trading Matt Ryan to the Colts. One of their best defensive players, Foyesade Oluokun left in free agency as well. The Panthers are set to open the season with a QB competition between Sam Darnold and third-round draft pick Matt Corral. Their offense is in the hands of Ben McAdoo, too, whose previous stints include working on the underwhelming Jaguars and Giants offenses.
Then there are other teams, who are rebuilding like the Bears, but aren’t quite as far along, like the Seahawks and Texans. Houston went a long way towards making their team better over the draft by adding Derek Stingley Jr., Kenyon Green, Jalen Pitre and John Metchie III, but their offense has even fewer proven players than the Bears’. Seattle on the other hand has just begun their rebuilding efforts. They parted ways with both Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, and appear to be headed towards their most painful season in over a decade.
The Bears do not have an easy road ahead. Installing a new program with a second-year quarterback and question marks at other offensive positions is a challenge. But other teams across the league are poised for even tougher seasons.