Projecting the Bears’ 2022 starting defense after mandatory minicamp

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The Chicago Bears have wrapped their offseason program with the conclusion of their three-day mandatory minicamp, which has started to make things both clear and uncertain with this roster ahead of training camp.

The defense is going to look a lot different under new head coach Matt Eberflus, which has to do with the new scheme and departure of key veterans across the board.

We’re still some time away before the team releases their first unofficial depth chart. But the defense is more clear than the offense at this point.

Following the conclusion of the offseason program, we’re predicting what Chicago’s starting defense will look like in 2022.

DE Robert Quinn

AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Robert Quinn is coming off an impressive season, where he broke the Bears’ single-season sack record with 18.5 total sacks and was a disruptive force off the edge. Quinn was absent during the entire offseason program as trade speculation continues to swirl. But, right now, it doesn’t sound like Quinn isn’t going anywhere.

DE Trevis Gipson

AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson

While the Bears signed Al-Quadin Muhammad, Trevis Gipson projects to get an opportunity to start at edge rusher opposite Quinn. Gipson had an impressive 2021 season, where he saw significant action in place of an injured Mack. Gipson has seen starters reps throughout the offseason program with Quinn and Muhammad not in action.

DT Justin Jones

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

After not signing Larry Ogunjobi due to a failed physical, Justin Jones is in line to serve as the three-technique on the defensive line. Jones is coming off an impressive season with the Chargers, where he had career highs in tackles (37), sacks (3.0) and QB hits (5).

DT Khyiris Tonga

AP Photo/David Banks

With Eddie Goldman’s release, Khyiris Tonga is next in line as the 1-technique (nose tackle) spot. Tonga saw significant action in his rookie season, where he showed promise as a disruptive defender, particularly as a run stuffer. He’ll face competition from free-agent addition Mike Pennel, who returns for his second stint with Chicago.

LB Roquan Smith

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Roquan Smith has been one of the NFL’s best linebackers, and he’ll be a focal point in Eberflus’ defense. Smith, who is in-line for a contract extension ahead of the 2022 season, figures to assume the middle or weak-side linebacker role.

LB Nicholas Morrow

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Bears have found a starting linebacker alongside Smith in Nicholas Morrow, who signed a one-year deal. Morrow missed last season due to a foot injury suffered in the preseason. But in 2020, Morrow had career highs in total tackles (78), tackles for loss (eight), sacks (three) and QB hits (six). Morrow will fill the middle or weak side linebacker role.

LB Matthew Adams

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears didn’t address the linebacker position in the NFL draft, but they might have their starting strong side linebacker on the roster in Matthew Adams. Adams played in Matt Eberflus’ defense in Indianapolis, and he could be the guy to fill the role. Eberflus explained the strong side linebacker rarely plays in this defense, per The Athletic.

CB Jaylon Johnson

AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

Jaylon Johnson is one of the building blocks for this defense moving forward, and he’s coming off another solid season. Johnson is the clear-cut CB1 where things stand, where the hope is he’ll take another step forward in 2022.

CB Kyler Gordon

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears used their first draft pick to address the need at cornerback in Kyler Gordon, who projects to be an immediate starter for Chicago. He’s a versatile, athletic cornerback who had plenty of production during his time at Washington. Gordon has the potential to develop into a lockdown corner at the NFL level.

S Eddie Jackson

USA Today Sports

Eddie Jackson was promised a fresh start in Eberflus’ defense, where he has a chance to finally live up to his contract extension. Jackson will be leading the way at safety, where the hope is Jackson can return to his early-career form. He’ll have some help from his projected running mate.

S Jaquan Brisker

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Chicago used its second draft pick to address a need at safety, landing Jaquan Brisker in the second round. Like Gordon, the Bears got an immediate starter in Brisker, where he’ll fill the strong safety role. He’s an instinctive athlete with a nice combination of size, speed and strength and he has the potential to develop into an impact contributor for Chicago for years to come.

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