Ranking the Bears’ most important offensive players for 2021 season
The Chicago Bears are gearing up for the start of the 2021 season, where they’ll face the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football on Sept. 12. But there are plenty of questions facing this team, starting with the offense.
There are some notable changes on the offense, starting with quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, which is an upgrade over last year’s situation. There are a lot of exciting weapons on offense — from second-year pros Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet to veterans like Allen Robinson and David Montgomery. But there are concerns on the offensive line, which will be a focal point at the start of the season.
We’re ranking the 10 most important Bears players on offense heading into the 2021 season:
QB Andy Dalton
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There's no doubt Andy Dalton is an upgrade over the Bears' quarterback situation last year. But with Justin Fields on the bench, there's only so long Dalton can hold down the starting job. Ultimately, Dalton will dictate how long he remains the starter. But with certain deficiencies on the offensive line and the differences between what Fields can do compared to him, it's only a matter of time before he's replaced with Fields.
TE Cole Kmet
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
This is a big year for second-year tight end Cole Kmet, who is stepping into a larger role on offense. While Kmet wasn't involved early on last year, he showed what he's capable of in the passing game and as a blocker last season. With Year 2 being the time when tight ends make a big leap in their development, the expectation is for Kmet to take a big step forward at a position that had been a concern for the previous few years.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Former undrafted free agent Sam Mustipher took advantage of his opportunity at center last season, where he finds himself as the starter entering this season. But Mustipher didn't have an encouraging preseason, where he struggled with run blocking. This is an important year for Mustipher, who could either cement himself as Chicago's center moving forward or could usher in a new center beyond 2021.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, James Daniels was lost for the year with a torn pectoral back in Week 5, and his return should provide a boost for this offensive line. Daniels will be playing his third different position on the interior of the line in the last three years -- moving from left guard to center and now to right guard. Daniels, just 23 in Year 4, has a chance to establish himself as the Bears' guard of the future and provide some needed stability to the offensive line.
LT Jason Peters
AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski
While Jason Peters might not be the Bears' left tackle of the future, his role is to serve as an immediate answer at the position with rookie Teven Jenkins sidelined indefinitely after undergoing back surgery. Peters is essentially off the street, after taking time off before getting a call from the Bears to anchor the left side of their line, which is why he's had some conditioning concerns early on. But with the concerns at tackle -- and with Justin Fields expected to enter the lineup sooner rather than later -- the Bears need a big year from Peters.
WR Darnell Mooney
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
There's a lot of hype surrounding second-year receiver Darnell Mooney, who is coming off an encouraging rookie season where he showed he could be a legitimate deep threat on offense. The former fifth-round pick figures to see an expanded role in his second season, where he's No. 2 to Allen Robinson. With Robinson unlikely to return to Chicago next year, Mooney is the only receiver on the roster set to be under contract next season.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
For an offensive line in need of consistency, Cody Whitehair is someone who figures to be an integral part of that. While Chicago's offensive line struggled during preseason, Whitehair was the fourth highest-graded guard in the NFL during that three-game span, according to Pro Football Focus, where he appears to be picking up where he left off last season. With just one center on the roster, Whitehair also figures to be a direct option at center, if needed.
RB David Montgomery
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton
Bears running back David Montgomery is coming off his first 1,000-yard season, which was due to his breakout performance over the final six weeks of the 2020 season. But Montgomery is far from satisfied, and he's feeling disrespected by running back rankings. Following Montgomery's success in 2020, you'd expect the Bears to get Montgomery more carries this season. Matt Nagy vowed to give Montgomery 20-plus carries a game, although we''ll see if that actually comes to fruition.
WR Allen Robinson
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The Bears' most consistent offensive weapon over the last three seasons will once again be one of their most important offensive players -- only preceded by the franchise's rookie quarterback. Robinson is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and there's a good likelihood that he repeats with another 1,000-yard season. Unfortunately, Robinson is playing on the franchise tag, as the Bears failed to sign him to a contract extension, leaving the team without its best offensive player beyond 2021.
QB Justin Fields
AP Photo/Wade Payne
We all know the most important thing about this season is the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields. While there's no postseason expectations, the only goal is for Fields to get some needed game experience and jump start his development. While Fields isn't starting the season -- thanks to Matt Nagy's QB plan -- it shouldn't take him long to get his first start. Then, the Justin Fields era will officially begin, and fans can start looking at the bigger picture for this franchise. [vertical-gallery id=479793] [listicle id=479854] [listicle id=479804]