6 causes for concern as Bears prepare for training camp

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Heading into training camp, there are several causes for concern facing the Chicago Bears. Though there are reasons to be optimistic about the future, there aren’t many who have confidence in the Bears this season as they kickstart their rebuild under Ryan Poles.

Despite a total tear down of the front office and coaching staff, there’s a lot of work to be done to get Chicago back to playing “Bears football.” With a team that looks plenty thin on paper, many players need to step up to eliminate some of the growing concerns ahead of the 2022 season.

Here are some causes for concern as the Bears prepare for training camp:

Justin Fields' disappointing rookie outing

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

No, a lot shouldn’t be made out of a rookie season for a quarterback, as we’ve seen many take a huge leap from their first season to their second. A couple of recent examples would be Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson.

Justin Fields did have the worst quarterback rating (26.4) among all 31 qualified passers. He also was the first Bears quarterback to start six or more game and have more interceptions than touchdowns since Matt Barkley in 2016.

Despite struggling last season, the Bears will be continuing to build their offense around Fields. There’s cause for concern though, seeing as there weren’t many improvements on offense to help the second-year quarterback in terms of wide receiver and offensive line.

The offensive line struggles

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears had an awful offensive line last season, giving up 58 sacks in 17 games. Their worst game was Fields’ first NFL start, where he was sacked nine times. He was under pressure the entire game, completing just 30 percent of his passes.

Yes, Chicago did draft some offensive linemen and try to improve things this offseason. Still, all of their problems won’t be solved in one offseason. It’s going to take at least another year or two before they have a solid offensive line.

If Fields is playing the majority of the season under pressure again, the passing game is going to be horrendous again. With the offensive line the Bears had last season, Chicago’s quarterbacks managed just 16 passing touchdowns in 17 games.

The loss of Khalil Mack

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Bears trading Khalil Mack was their biggest move this offseason. Normally a team’s biggest move should improve their team, not hurt it. Mack did miss 10 games in 2021 due to a foot injury. Still, he was viewed as Chicago’s best player on their team since he was traded to the Bears in 2018.

Not all is bad though, as Robert Quinn did have an amazing season, breaking the Bears’ franchise single-season sack record. It would have been nice to see a healthy Mack playing on the opposite side of Quinn this upcoming season. But Chicago will turn to the likes of Trevis Gipson and Al-Quadin Muhammad to try and fill his big shoes.

The Bears secondary ranked 31st last season

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few years ago, the Bears had one of the best secondaries in the NFL, intercepting 27 passes in 2018. Since the 2018 season, Chicago has logged just 28 interceptions in 49 games, as opposed to 27 in 16 games.

Some of the issues on defense had to do with Chicago’s offense stalling out on almost every drive. The lack of points from Matt Nagy’s offense had his defense playing hero ball each season. Eventually, they couldn’t keep up.

Now led by Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams, the new regime will look to rebuild the secondary and turn them back into a dominant force. Right now, Pro Football Focus has their secondary ranked 31st out of 32 NFL teams.

Even with the success Jaylon Johnson has found in his first two seasons, it’s hard to say anyone in their secondary is reliable. Their depth chart is thin and statically speaking, this defense is unrecognizable to where they were just four years ago. But they did add a couple of pieces in rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.

Lack of depth on offense

AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

The Bears have a lack of depth at most positions. Outside of their special teams, there’s a lot of concern for how thin the roster is on both sides of the ball.

Chicago doesn’t have a true backup quarterback that can come in and win football games if needed. Justin Fields did miss time last season due to injury, and if it happens again, they’re not prepared with Trevor Siemian replacing Andy Dalton and Nick Foles.

The wide receiver group is thin. Though Darnell Mooney played well last season, he currently isn’t a true WR1. That’s not to say he couldn’t be, but there isn’t much depth behind him. The same can be said about the tight ends on this roster. Cole Kmet is in a make-or-break year for the Bears. With the loss of Jimmy Graham, there’s no true depth behind him.

The offensive line struggled last year, and they still don’t have a starting combination figured out ahead of training camp. There’s lack of proven depth on the offensive line. Any injuries there will be brutal, as they will already likely be near the bottom of the league.

Lack of depth on defense

AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

With the loss of both Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack, the pass rush has already gotten worse. There weren’t any true replacements for both players added this offseason. The two most reliable players on defense heading into the season are defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith.

Outside of Smith, the linebacker room is very thin. On paper, this is one of the worst defensive groups we’ve seen in Chicago since the Phil Emery and Marc Trestman.

This is going to be a long season. They don’t have a defense currently that can carry a struggling offense. If the Bears’ offense can’t drastically improve from the 2021 season, Chicago could finish close to the bottom of the league.

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