The Chicago Bears are gearing up for the start of the 2022 season, where they’re taking on the San Francisco 49ers at home in what appears to be the waning years of Soldier Field.
There are already concerns facing the roster, particularly given the new offensive and defensive schemes and the lack of depth or big-name players at any position.
As the Bears prepare for the 49ers, there is plenty to be concerned about heading into Sunday’s game.
LT Braxton Jones vs. DE Nick Bosa
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There’s been plenty of hype for fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones during minicamp and training camp. But week one will present one of the biggest challenges in his career as he matches up against two-time Pro Bowler Nick Bosa, who is coming off a 15.5-sack season.
Jones has the size of an NFL left tackle, but he was able to use his size to correct for mistakes at the FCS level. For example, against FBS competition like Arizona State, defensive ends often beat Jones inside. At Southern Utah, he could not permanently get anchored and prevent linemen from driving him back.
The Bears will likely provide help with an extra blocker, but there will be moments Jones has to block Bosa one-on-one. It’s a big task for the rookie.
Who is the WR2 behind Darnell Mooney?
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The Shanahan offense is built on receivers who can generate yards after the catch (YAC). Last year, the 49ers had three players in the top-10 for YAC above expectation (Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle). According to Next Gen Stats, besides Darnell Mooney, who had 5.1 YAC on an expected YAC of 4.1, the remaining Bears receivers are unimpressive.
Despite having one of the best catch rates in the NFL, current WR2 Byron Pringle only generated 0.8 additional YAC than expected. None of the other Bears receivers had enough catches to qualify for Next Gen Stats tracking.
Cole Kmet only generated 0.6 additional YAC at the tight end position than expected. So either this will be a breakout game/year for Kmet and Pringle, or production will have to come from rookie Velus Jones Jr. or one of the veterans that haven’t done it before.
Bears linebackers (not named Roquan Smith)
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While it’s become commonplace to downplay the role of linebackers in today’s NFL, they’re a vital piece of any defense. Especially when facing a team built on running the football out of multiple running back and tight end sets.
Outside of Roquan Smith, the Bears rely on Nicholas Morrow and Matt Adams, players who have either never played an entire season (Morrow) or started more than five games (Adams). Behind Morrow and Adams are two undrafted free agent rookies in Jack Sanborn and Sterling Weatherford.
The Bears won’t be able to scheme and hide their linebackers if San Francisco finds a mismatch or if there’s an injury. If that happens, it will get ugly quickly.