The Chicago Bears struggled on several levels during the 2021 season, and while it’s easy to blame the coaching staff for much of that that, it’s not fair to blame it entirely on the previous regime and scheme. There were a numbers of players that had down years that are looking to bounce back, so that’s what today’s roundtable topic is all about.
I asked the WCG crew this question.
Who will bounce back for the Bears in the 2022 season?
But we had so many of our staffers weigh in on this topic that I split it into two articles; one for the offense and one for the defense.
Here are our picks on the offensive side of the ball for Bears most likley to bounce back.
Robert Zeglinski: I think, by his standards or ours, that Cody Whitehair hasn’t been himself lately. Whitehair used to be the centerpiece of the Bears’ offensive line, one of the players I thought we could really count on over the past half-decade. His usual reliability hasn’t been present in a while. Call it a hunch but I think Whitehair at 30 (by the time the season starts) has a major bounceback year. He’ll definitely be one of those players who is helped by a better offensive scheme, and who gets a veteran’s second wind.
Bill Zimmerman: To me, when you talk about bouncing back, it’s a good player coming off a subpar year. There aren’t many of those left on the roster as Ryan Poles gave most their walking papers. To me, only two players qualify, Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair, and assuming many WCG writers are going Jackson, I’ll go with Whitehair who is coming off arguably the worst year of his career. In my observations, Whitehair’s game is elevated by better players around him, he isn’t the type of talent that can carry an offensive line. Hopefully with a stronger center to his right, Whitehair should perform better than he did in 2021.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: Whitehair will turn 30 this July, but that’s not really old for an interior offensive lineman, especially one that hasn’t had any serious injuries during his career. He may not bounce all the way back to the Pro Bowl form he had in 2018, but there’s certainly room for improvement after his down 2021. Whitehair’s mistakes a year ago seemed to be more mental, and that could be due to him getting into his own head at times. A clear and concise plan up front out of the new offensive scheme could help Whitehair settle in.
Jack Salo: David Montgomery, if health permits. Contract year, struggling quarterback, a new regime which wants to grind out a low-scoring win every Sunday. Imagine if David Montgomery ran this backfield during some of the John Fox years. We’re talking 2000 yards from scrimmage. After a sophomore campaign in 2020 saw Monty averaging 4.3 yards per carry, last season was (less than 100% and) underwhelming. Unfortunately, this might mean he gets the bag elsewhere.
Sam Householder: Montgomery for me too. He’s going to get ample opportunities and until Justin Fields gets his footing and can start playing like we hope he can, the offense is going to be driven by the running game. I know there’s questions about Montgomery’s fit in a zone running scheme, but he’s a very good all-around back and I think he can find his footing and have a strong season.
Aaron Leming: Bouncing back is a tough one to quantify for me. Especially when you’re looking at a roster full of new players. Eddie Jackson feels like the best candidate but I’m going to go with Justin Fields. Yes, his offensive line looks bad on paper, as do his pass catchers. With all that being said, I believe that the coaching staff is going to make the bigger difference. Obviously, some of these new coaches are unknowns but it’s pretty interesting to see that only two 2021 offensive coaches under Matt Nagy are still currently employed in the NFL. For that reason, I think they’ll be able to scheme around some of the weaknesses and allow Fields to grow.
Josh Sunderbruch: It needs to be Justin Fields. In the last five years, every starting quarterback save one who had a worse passer rating over at least 100 attempts than 2021 Fields, lost his job (Allen was the exception). His ANY/A was comparably bad—not surprising given the number of sacks he took and a completion percentage outside of the Top 30 for quarterbacks with at least 14 attempts. I could go on, but in short, by all meaningful objective measures, Fields was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last year. If he is going to have a future in Chicago (or anywhere), he needs to bounce back to at least mediocre.
Patti Curl: Does Justin Fields count? I’m going to say he will bounce back to the level of dominance he showed in college and decide that counts. Last year was a mix of flashes of brilliance and disasters that were never entirely his fault but still left you wanting more. This year I anticipate flashes of brilliance paired with decent play in a system that fits him. That’s about as good as it gets for a Bears QB.
Which offensive player do you guys think will bounce back in 2022?
You can check out the defensive side of this topic right here once that article goes live later today.