PFF believes Bears had an average 2022 offseason

PFF believes the Bears had an underwhelming offseason under new GM Ryan Poles, where Chicago earned a C grade.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how the Chicago Bears have approached this offseason under new general manager Ryan Poles, which hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence heading into the 2022 season.

Pro Football Focus graded all 32 NFL offseasons, where the Bears were just average with a C grade. Breaking it down, Chicago earned an average free agency and a B- NFL draft.

PFF noted that the new Bears regime was in a difficult position when they took over. Specifically as Poles had to tear down the roster before building it back up. That included trading Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers and parting ways with players with hefty salary cap hits.

But they also noted that Chicago lost their top player on both offense and defense in Mack and wide receiver Allen Robinson.

Receiver Byron Pringle and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick represent the kind of low-price roll of the dice they were interested in making, as they were hoping to upgrade incrementally without much cash outlay while building through the draft.

When it came to draft time, the team went defense with their first two selections before finally finding some help for Justin Fields. Velus Jones Jr. looked excellent in his last season in college, but he is two years older than Fields and will be a 25-year old rookie. On Day 3, they added four different offensive linemen, hoping that one or more sticks and upgrades an ugly-looking unit on paper. The team didn’t have much room to maneuver this offseason, but it still feels like they did little to ensure their most important player (Fields) succeeds.

The main point of contention revolves around the Bears seemingly not doing enough to help second-year quarterback Justin Fields. Poles added some unproven wide receivers in Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown in free agency while adding Lucas Patrick to serve as the starting center. The Bears also drafted Velus Jones Jr. in the third round of the NFL draft and added four offensive linemen on Day 3.

Aside from Darnell Mooney, the Bears don’t have a proven wideout on the roster — although there is plenty of potential among the group. There are also questions along the offensive line, including a glaring hole at right guard.

While the Bears have been criticized for their offseason, it’s clear Poles has a vision for this roster in 2022 and beyond.

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Bears are the worst team in the NFL, per ESPN’s FPI rankings

The Bears are the worst team in the NFL, according to ESPN’s FPI rankings. Hello No. 1 overall pick?

While there’s not a lot of confidence in the Chicago Bears heading into the 2022 season, they have a favorable schedule that should at least save them from being the worst team in the league, right? Apparently not.

According to ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings, the Bears are the worst team in the NFL heading into 2022. When breaking things down, Chicago’s offense ranks 31st — better than only the Atlanta Falcons — while the defense is 30th in the league.

The Bears have a 14% chance to land the No. 1 overall pick, according to ESPN’s FPI rankings. That’s tied for the highest odds with the New York Jets with the Houston Texans (11%), Jacksonville Jaguars (9%) and Falcons (9%) behind them.

Given the concerns on offense, it’s not surprising to see the Bears rated among the worst in the NFL. Especially with questions about how Justin Fields will be impacted in all of this. But considering the moves made on defense this offseason — including the additions of rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker — it’s surprising to find Chicago ranked 30th, even if they did lose Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks.

Here’s what ESPN had to say:

ESPN’s FPI is down on Justin Fields after a pretty brutal rookie season in which he finished with the worst QBR among qualifying quarterbacks in the league. Edge rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Allen Robinson II are both gone, and while there are still a few good players remaining in the defensive front — including edge rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith — there isn’t a whole lot other strengths on the Bears’ roster.

When looking at Chicago’s 2022 schedule, it’s safe to say the Bears won’t finish with the worst record in the league. Even with questions on offense and defense. They’ll face the likes of the Detroit Lions (twice), New York Giants,  Texans, Jets and Falcons, which are all more than winnable games.

Then again, with Chicago ranked the worst team in the NFL, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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Podcast: Breaking down the Bears’ 2022 schedule

In the new episode of our Bears Wire podcast, we’re breaking down Chicago’s 2022 schedule, including sharing our early record predictions.

We’ve hit another milestone in the NFL offseason following the league’s schedule release, where we learned when the Chicago Bears will be facing their 2022 opponents.

Aside from facing their NFC North rivals twice this season, the Bears will square off against the AFC East and NFC East, which includes home games against the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, as well as away games against the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

They’ll also face the same-place finisher from the NFC South (Atlanta Falcons) and NFC West (San Francisco 49ers). With the additional 17th regular-season game, the Bears will host the Houston Texans.

While there’s not a lot of confidence in what Chicago can do this season, they do have one of the easiest schedules in the league. So there are certainly some games to be won.

Following the NFL’s schedule release, host Ryan O’Leary (@RyanO_Leary) and myself (@AlyssaBarbieri) are breaking down the Bears’ 2022 schedule, including which games are winnable, which will prove to be more challenging and our early win/loss predictions.

Listen to the latest episode below:

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It doesn’t sound like Bears will conduct joint practices this summer

Joint practices have become common practice among NFL teams. But it doesn’t sound it’s in the cards for the Bears this summer.

Joint practices have become common practice among NFL teams in the preseason. But it doesn’t sound it’s in the cards for the Chicago Bears this summer.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was asked about the potential for joint practices, and his answer all but indicates it’s not happening. Although, Eberflus did say that he’s been in talks with one of the three teams Chicago will face in the preseason.

“I don’t think we are,” Eberflus said. “I’m in a conversation with one of (the preseason opponents) right now and that might come up. I’m not going to say their name, but we could potentially do one. But I don’t foresee it happening right now.”

The Bears are slated to host the Kansas City Chiefs (Aug. 13) and hit the road to face the Seattle Seahawks (Aug. 18) and Cleveland Browns (Aug. 27). Given the short turnaround between Chicago’s first two preseason games, it seems most likely that Eberflus could be in communication with the Chiefs.

While the Bears have a short turnaround between the first two preseason games, Kansas City currently doesn’t have a date for their second preseason contest. Assuming it’s not a Thursday game like Chicago’s, it’s certainly more doable.

But, at the same time, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has made it known he’s not a fan of joint practices and the Seahawks were among the few teams who didn’t participate in joint practices last summer.

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Bears GM Ryan Poles announces staff promotions

The Bears have announced some staff promotions within the scouting and football administration departments.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles announced some staff promotions on Wednesday within the scouting department and football administration department.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the work our player personnel staff and scouts have put in to this organization since January,” Poles said, via ChicagoBears.com. “These promotions and hirings are all well-deserved and put us in a great position moving forward when it comes to scouting the best talent at the collegiate and NFL levels.”

Scouting department promotions:

  • Breck Ackley promoted to assistant director of college scouting
  • Chris White promoted to assistant director of pro scouting
  • Sam Summerville promoted to senior national scout
  • Francis Saint Paul promoted to senior national scout
  • Ashton Washington promoted to player personnel coordinator
  • Charles Love promoted to pro scout
  • John Syty promoted to Southwest area scout
  • Brendan Rehor promoted to Southeast area scout
  • Tom Bradway hired as Northeast area scout
  • Ryan Cavanaugh hired as Midwest area scout
  • Ryan Weese named scouting assistant

Football administration department promotions:

  • Mike Santarelli promoted to executive director of football technology
  • James Cosh promoted to manager of football administration/pro scout

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Bears rookie CB Kyler Gordon has been lighting it up during practice

Bears rookie CB Kyler Gordon is already making a strong impression during offseason practices.

Kyler Gordon has only been a member of the Chicago Bears for a few weeks, but the rookie cornerback is already making a strong impression.

Gordon, who was Chicago’s top selection with the 39th overall pick in the draft, has already made an impact on the practice field.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said that Gordon has been “lighting it up” in practice so far during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) practices — particularly when it comes to making plays on the ball.

“Kyler’s been lighting it up the last two days,” Eberflus told reporters. “I’ll just tell you that. The guy’s got tremendous ball skills. He’s been playing the defense the right way, and we’re very impressed with him. I’ll just tell you that. And he’s doing a good job the first two days.

“We’ll see where it goes. He’s young. He’s got a lot to learn, but we’re excited with where he is with his ball-hawking skills. No question.”

Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams confirmed Gordon will play outside at cornerback, at least to start, as he doesn’t want to overload the rookie. But given Gordon’s versatility inside and outside, perhaps we could see Gordon make the transition in the slot.

Gordon, along with fellow second-round rookie safety Jaquan Brisker, is expected to start immediately alongside Jaylon Johnson in the secondary. And after hearing he’s already been making plays in practice, it’s not exactly a surprise.

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So it doesn’t sound like Akiem Hicks is returning to Bears after all

Akiem Hicks cleared up rumors of potential return to the Bears.

Believe it or not, former Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks still remains unsigned on the free agent market. He’s one of the league’s best remaining free agents, where you’d expect he’ll find a new home soon.

For a minute, Bears fans were hoping a return to Chicago was in play. They were left speculating about Hicks’ potential return to Chicago after he posted and then quickly deleted this image on Instagram:

It wouldn’t be the first time an athlete got ahead of things and posted something before it became official and had to delete it. So, naturally, it was a topic of speculation for several hours. Was Hicks returning to Chicago? Or, even more shocking, was he heading to their rivals in Green Bay?

Hicks took to Twitter to clear things up explaining that “I didn’t mean to get your hopes up.” Simply put, there’s no impending signing with the Bears. Hicks was looking through old photos on his way to the gym, and he appears to have accidentally posted one.

The Bears lost three starters along the defensive line this offseason in Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols. Chicago’s only addition to the interior of the defensive line was Justin Jones as the starting three-technique. Re-signing Hicks, at an affordable price, is something you’d hope general manager Ryan Poles has considered. Simply put, the Bears were better when Hicks was on the field.

But it doesn’t sound like Hicks is returning to the Bears after all. At least not right now.

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Akiem Hicks sparks rumors about his future in a now-deleted Instagram post

Could Akiem Hicks be returning to the Bears?

NFL free agency has dried up considerably over the last few weeks but many prominent players still remain on the market. One of those players is former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who saw his contract expire following the 2021 season after spending six years in the navy and orange as one of the team’s leaders on defense.

But based on his recent social media activity, could the former Bear become a current Bear once again? Or possibly sign with their rivals up north?

Hicks posted a photo from the Bears’ 2021 home game against the Green Bay Packers of him sacking quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The post was quickly deleted, but was screenshotted by Daniel Greenberg. His latest post prior to this one on Instagram was back on Dec. 16.

The gregarious defensive standout was one of the key players for the Bears since he was signed as a free agent in 2016. He became a leader on defense and blossomed into a Pro Bowl player, earning those honors during the Bears 2018 season where he helped the team claim the NFC North title.

Injuries would limit his time on the field over the last few seasons, but when healthy, he was one of the better defensive linemen in the league. During his six seasons with the Bears, Hicks totaled 247 tackles, 31 sacks, and five forced fumbles.

While he expressed a desire to stay with the team late in the 2021 season, his contract wasn’t extended. Some of his teammates aren’t shy about expressing their desire to bring him back, however as safety Eddie Jackson pondered the question last month in a tweet.

With Hicks’ latest social media activity/inactivity, fans are coming up with their own theories as to what Hicks might do. Could he be coming back or is he hinting about signing with the Packers?

Bears’ Justin Fields proving to be better than advertised, says Lucas Patrick

New Bears center Lucas Patrick has been impressed with what he’s seen from Justin Fields: “He is exceeding my expectations.”

All eyes are on Bears quarterback Justin Fields heading into his second season — and first as Chicago’s undisputed starter. Following a rocky rookie season, the hope is Fields will take a step forward in his development.

But it’s been an offseason of change for Fields. The Bears are learning a new offense under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, which head coach Matt Eberflus described as “very quarterback friendly.”

Fields will also have a new group of wide receivers — with the exception of Darnell Mooney — and some new faces on the offensive line. That includes center Lucas Patrick, who signed with Chicago earlier this offseason.

Patrick, who first got a glimpse of what Fields could do from the sidelines in Green Bay, has been impressed with what he’s seen from Fields so far this offseason.

“He can get moving pretty quick,” Patrick said. “He’s a fun guy. He’s young, so he likes to have the juice and the energy. He’s got a live arm. I mean, there were a few throws he made today where that ball, it’s like it keeps getting faster in the air.

“He’s soaking everything up. Whether it’s coaches, me, or stuff he’s telling me, it’s really good. [We] couldn’t have a better start to a working relationship.”

Patrick expected to be impressed with Fields given he was the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. But Fields has managed to exceed Patrick’s expectations already this offseason.

“I had pretty high expectations,” Patrick said. “You don’t get drafted as high as he does in the National Football League just by kind of having a wet noodle or slow feet. He’s really talented. I thought he was going to be really good, and he is exceeding my expectations.”

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Bears’ 90-man offseason roster by jersey number

From Justin Fields to Trevis Gipson, here is the Chicago Bears’ 90-man offseason roster organized by jersey number.

The Chicago Bears kicked off the third phase of their offseason program this week with the start of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) at Halas Hall.

The Bears still have eight OTA practices left — May 19, May 23-24, May 26, June 6-7 and June 9. That’s followed up by mandatory minicamp from June 14-16, which will be the last official offseason work before they break ahead of training camp in late July.

There have been some new additions to the roster since the 2022 NFL draft, which includes new rookies and veteran signings.

With that in mind, here’s the latest look at the Bears’ 90-man offseason roster by jersey number: