3 burning questions for the Chicago Bears ahead of 2022 season

Alyssa Barbieri
Bears Wire

This story originally appeared in a special edition of USA TODAY Sports Weekly: NFL Forecast 2022. On newsstands now.

The Chicago Bears are nearing the end of their offseason program with Organized Team Activities and veteran minicamp happening over the next couple of weeks.

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There’s not a lot of confidence in this Bears team, which has to do with concerns on offense and defense as new head coach Matt Eberflus steps in. The biggest question revolves around second-year quarterback Justin Fields’ development considering his unproven supporting cast. While the defense added a pair of impact rookies in Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, they lost a number of veteran starters this offseason.

Here are three burning questions facing the Bears ahead of the 2022 season:

Can Justin Fields break out in Year 2?

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett reaches for Bears QB Justin Fields in the third quarter. Fields was sacked nine times Sunday.

Following a rocky rookie season, all eyes are on Fields, who enters the season as the starter. The expectation is that Fields will take a step forward in his development, especially now that former head coach Matt Nagy is out of the picture. But Fields will also be learning his second offense in as many years under new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.

There are concerns about whether the Bears have actually done enough to help Fields this offseason. While other young quarterbacks are surrounded with weapons, it’s hard not to be concerned when Chicago’s receiving corps is led by Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle and third-round rookie Velus Jones Jr. The Bears also have questions on the offensive line, including a hole at right guard, and the emphasis should be on making things easier for their young quarterback.

With that said, Bears general manager Ryan Poles believes that a new offense and coaching staff will go a long way in helping Fields make a leap. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus explained earlier this offseason that Getsy’s offense is "very quarterback-friendly" and that Fields already feels comfortable.

What can we expect from the offensive line?

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields calls a play in the huddle during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Chicago.

Poles made it clear the line would be a focal point this offseason, which wasn’t a surprise given Fields was among the most-sacked quarterbacks last season. Poles wanted to get lighter and quicker on the offensive line, and his offseason moves have indicated as much. Free agency saw the departures of three starters from last year’s line – James Daniels, Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi – and the offseason acquisition of cent Lucas Patrick. 

There are three familiar faces from last year’s team that factor into the starting equation: Cody Whitehair and second-year pros Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. Whitehair and Patrick appear to be the only locks at their respective guard and center positions. The Bears experimented with different offensive line alignments in voluntary minicamp, swapping Borom’s and Jenkins’ positions. Borom saw time at left tackle, while Jenkins got the nod at right tackle. The failure to sign restricted free agent Ryan Bates – whose offer sheet was matched by the Bills – left a glaring hole at right guard. During voluntary minicamp, Sam Mustipher got reps at the position. We’ll see how this new rookie crop factors into the equation heading into the summer.

How will the defense fare under Matt Eberflus?

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus watches his team at the NFL football team's practice facility in Lake Forest, Ill., Wednesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Lost in the concerns on offense, the Bears are experiencing an overhaul on defense under Eberflus. Not only is Chicago transitioning to a 4-3 defense, but the roster has undergone changes this offseason. The Bears parted ways with several veterans – including Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan and Bilal Nichols – and added Justin Jones to serve as their three-technique. 

But the Bears have some big names returning this season, including Robert Quinn, Jaylon Johnson and Roquan Smith, who’s in line for a contract extension before the start of the season. Khyiris Tonga projects as the starting nose tackle on defense, where Eberflus explained his plans for a defensive line rotation using eight to nine linemen to keep fresh legs on the field.

The good news is the Bears shored up an important need in the secondary during the draft with the second-round additions of Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker. Both Gordon and Brisker figure to contribute as starters as rookies opposite Johnson and S Eddie Jackson, where the hope is the defense’s biggest weakness will get a boost with young talent.