Bears' Position Battles to Watch Ahead of 2022 NFL Season
A new era is underway for the Chicago Bears, and the franchise's leaders have been hard at work this offseason trying to improve the team's roster.
New general manager Ryan Poles has been busy making moves, and first-year head coach Matt Eberflus will look to lead the Bears to success on the field in 2022.
After going 6-11 last season, Chicago will seek better results this year. But it could take some time for the team to get back to being a playoff contender, as it's still in the process of building a roster that can stack up with others in the NFC.
With so many youngsters and less proven players on both sides of the ball, Chicago should have plenty of starting jobs and playing time up for grabs during training camp and the preseason. So it will need to figure out who's most deserving of various open roles on the team.
Here's a look at some key position battles the Bears will have heading into the 2022 season.
Darnell Mooney had a breakout year in 2021, solidifying himself as quarterback Justin Fields' top target in the passing game.
The 24-year-old had 81 catches for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns, and he could build off that performance during the upcoming season.
However, Chicago will need to decide who else starts in its receiving corps, along with who's most deserving of backup roles. So there are going to be a lot of wide receivers battling it out for playing time throughout training camp and the preseason.
The Bears brought in Byron Pringle during free agency and used their third-round draft pick on Velus Jones Jr., and they should both get considerable playing time.
Pringle, 28, is coming off a solid 2021 season with the Kansas City Chiefs, while 25-year-old Jones was among the most experienced players in this year's draft class.
There are plenty of other receivers who will be looking to carve out roles with Chicago, including Equanimeous St. Brown, Tajae Sharpe, Dazz Newsome and others.
If Fields is going to take a big step forward in his second NFL season, he'll need the best possible receivers to throw the ball to. Do the Bears have enough talent in this group for that to happen? We'll find out this fall.
There's not yet a ton of clarity regarding the Bears' offensive line for 2022. Cody Whitehair will likely start at left guard again, while free-agent acquisition Lucas Patrick has a good chance of starting at center. As for the other three spots, there will be competition for the jobs heading into the season.
Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom are both entering their second year in the NFL, and they could end up being Chicago's starting tackles. However, they'll likely each need to have strong camps and hold off the other competitors for the jobs. That includes Julie'n Davenport, who signed with the team this offseason.
Multiple linemen could be battling to start at right guard. Among the potential options for the role are free-agent acquisition Dakota Dozier, Sam Mustipher and rookies Zachary Thomas and Ja'Tyre Carter. This could be a wide-open competition heading into training camp.
The Bears need to perform better up front and do a better job of protecting Fields. They allowed an NFL-high 58 sacks in 2021, which isn't a formula for success in the passing game.
So Chicago will have to decide on the best combination on the O-line that will produce better results.
The Bears' cornerback group is a lot like their receiving corps: One clear starter and a bunch of other players battling for playing time behind him.
Jaylon Johnson will be one of the anchors of the Chicago secondary, but which other corners will get the most time on the field in 2022?
Duke Shelley has been a solid contributor over his first three years in the NFL and could be in line for a larger role this season. The Bears also signed Tavon Young in free agency, and the 28-year-old may provide a boost after faring well over his time with the Baltimore Ravens.
There's also rookie Kyler Gordon, who was selected during the second round of this year's draft. The former Washington standout has a ton of potential, and he could get an opportunity to be a starter early in his NFL career, especially if he impresses during training camp and the preseason.
"Out of the guys I have coached, no, I wouldn't say anyone has the short-area quickness that I'm seeing from him right now," Bears defensive backs coach James Rowe said last week, per Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire.
So, Chicago has some talented options at cornerback, and it will become more clear who will serve in which roles once the 2022 season gets closer.