The Bears' 2022 season was supposed to be a new chapter. The team started the offseason by hiring Ryan Poles away from the Chiefs as their new general manager. Poles then brought on Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as his first head coach and Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy to be Chicago's offensive coordinator. With Justin Fields entering his second season and getting a new staff to work with, this was supposed to be the start of a turnaround. Instead, Chicago got more of the same. They fell to three wins despite Fields making a jaw-dropping play seemingly every week. Chicago also set a franchise record for losses in a season, though an extra week of football was needed to get there. Fields' emergence offered the team hope for 2023, but the numbers say they still have a long way to go.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 19.2 (23rd)
- EPA per play: -0.04 (23rd)
- Dropback EPA per play: -0.07 (27th)
- Passing yards per game: 130.5 (32nd)
- Rush EPA per play: 0 (6th)
- Rush yards per game: 177.3 (1st)
Starting with some positives, Fields gave us one of the best seasons on the ground in the history of the league. He broke off four runs of 40 or more yards. That was more than Nick Chubb and Josh Jacobs combined. He also set the record for yards per carry (7.1) in a season on at least 150 attempts. The rest of the team had little to offer, as evidenced by Fields' 2,242 passing yards at 7.1 yards per throw. Coming off a 1,000-yard season, Darnell Mooney's numbers plummeted. The speedy wideout reached just 493 yards before going down with a season-ending ankle injury. Chase Claypool, acquired midway through the year from Pittsburgh, didn't make much of an impact in his few games with the team. The line did show some signs of life with left tackle Braxton Jones and right guard Teven Jenkins both receiving strong grades from Pro Football Focus.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 27.2 (32nd)
- EPA per play: 0.12 (32nd)
- Dropback EPA per play: 0.21 (32nd)
- Passing yards per game: 218.6 (17th)
- Rush EPA per play: 0.02 (28th)
- Rush yards per game: 157.3 (31st)
Chicago had one defensive player ranked as a top-32 option at their respective position by PFF. That was safety Eddie Jackson, who finished the year on injured reserve. The Bears ranked last in the NFL in sacks per game and didn't have corners who could mask their weak pass-rush with lockdown coverage. They ultimately allowed more yards per pass attempt than any other team. Their run-defense, weakened by the team trading away Roquan Smith, didn't fair much better.
Bears 2023 Offseason
Draft Picks (Top-150)
9th, 53rd, 61st, 64th, 103rd, 133rd, 138th, and 149th
Notable Free Agents
WR Byron Pringle, RB David Montgomery, OLB Nicholas Morrow, C Sam Mustipher, OT Riley Reiff, and WR Dante Pettis
G Lucas Patrick ($3.8 million in savings), EDGE Al-Quadin Muhammad ($4 million), and DT Justin Jones ($4.9 million)
The Bears have plenty of players who are under contract for 2023 and would be cut candidates for most teams. However, they have nearly $40 million more than any other team in cap space, so the savings are all but useless to them. The Claypool trade stings in hindsight as it sent off the No. 32 overall pick.
Despite trading for Claypool, the Bears are still light at receiver. Fields has room to grow as a passer, but he needs better help to allow that to happen. With strong vertical threats in Claypool and Mooney, and threat over the middle of the field makes sense for the roster.
In 2022, 88 players notched at least five sacks. Not a single one of them played for the Bears. They need a pass-rushing defensive end but could also opt for a tackle given the lack of talent across their entire line.
The Bears got some surprising performances from their offensive line, but the unit is a weak-link system. With Riley Reiff likely departing in free agency, the team needs to find an answer at right tackle.
Bears DBs coach James Rowe left for a college gig, but the rest of the team remains intact. Though Chicago was the easiest team to pass on by many metrics, Rowe did get solid performances out of some young players, including Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon, who combined for four interceptions and as many sacks. The Bears could experience more impactful coaching turnover next offseason if they don't turn things around in 2023.
After stealing the top pick in the draft just before the clock struck midnight, the Bears are in the rare position of needing to trade away the most valuable selection. Early reports have indicated that is their plan as opposed to moving Fields. The Colts, Falcons, and Panthers are all strong candidates to move up for a quarterback. Chicago's first order of business in the offseason will be extracting the most value possible from the top spot in the draft. With as many holes as the Bears have, trading down multiple times can't hurt. The Bears can also afford to spend in free agency. The rolling salary minimum means they have to. A few marquee free agents—Marcus Peters and Orlando Brown come to mind—will be pricey but fill Chicago's needs well. Front-loading hefty contracts to allow for more freedom in future years, once Fields needs an extension, would be the ideal outcome. The Bears could be a fringe playoff team in 2023, but this offseason has to be about building a Super Bowl roster farther down the road.