Yesterday we kicked off this roundtable series with a question about the player we expect to bounce back for the Chicago Bears in the 2022 season, and our WCG team went so in-depth I had to break the answers into two parts. Click here to see the offensive players we mentioned and here for the defensive players.
Much like that first one, question number two brought about a variety of answers, and here’s what I asked them.
Which Bears newcomer (rookie or free agent) will make the biggest impact in 2022?
Here’s how we answered, with our picks broken up between free agents, coaches, and rookies to make for a neat and tidy read.
Aaron Leming - Lucas Patrick feels like that guy for me. Despite being listed as a reserve, he graded out damn-well as a starter over the past two seasons with Green Bay. More importantly, new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy choose him to be the leader of the new offensive line. I think that alone holds a lot of weight. If Patrick performs like he did the past two years in Green Bay, he should be the unsung hero of this Bears offense in 2022.
Peter Borkowski - I think the Lucas Patrick signing deserves a bit more love. Sure, Patrick isn’t one of the league’s best linemen or anything, but he had some really nice seasons up in Green Bay. He also looks super aggressive down in the trenches, which is something I think this O-line desperately needs. On top of that, he’s fairly disciplined. Last season, Patrick only committed four total penalties in 17 games. Maybe I’m overexaggerating it in my own memory, but penalties were a huge issue for the Bears’ line last year, on top of just poor play.
Plus, bringing in Patrick means Sam Mustipher, who struggled last season, doesn’t need to bear the load of being the full time starting center, and the Bears can experiment with him to find what does work for the youngster. While there’s still work to be done, adding Patrick should help stabilize one of the Bears’ more glaring issues going into the season.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter - Of all the signings and draft picks made so far, I’ll have to give Lucas Patrick the nod here. Sam Mustipher was underwhelming at Center last year, even when the remainder of the hogs did their jobs, pressure was almost immediately in the QB’s faces once the ball got snapped. And don’t get me started with how bad the interior run game looked. Truth be told, the Bears haven’t had adequate play from their Centers consistently for years. Patrick, in a small sample size, stands to improve the position immediately. That’s the bet Bears GM Ryan Poles seems to be making as well.
Lucas has the nastiness desired by new Bears O-line coach Chris Morgan, and while he graded out fairly well at Center, he has the versatility to kick over to guard if needed. Keeping him at Center full time should allow him to take the next step as a pro, but I’m not asking for an Olin Kreutz kind of player here. Just a guy who can man the position with authority, and Lucas looks to fit that bill quite nicely.
Patti Curl - I’m going to go with slot cornerback Tavon Young. Tavon was one of the most promising young slot corners in the league before injuries slowed his progression. If he comes in healthy, Matt Eberflus has a good record of developing slot corners and his system should provide an opportunity for him to shine. Don’t be surprised if Young is among the best nickelbacks in the league by seasons end.
Ken Mitchell - Byron Pringle is in the best position to step up and make himself a TON of money. He’s got all the tools, and I think it’s fair to say that he has “an opportunity” here in Chicago for massive playing time.
Bill Zimmerman - I think the choice has to be Byron Pringle. That’s not to say he’s the most talented newcomer, but, by default, if he stays healthy, he’s going to have probably around 100 targets. If he catches 55 of those for a little below is career average (13.4). He’s going to be north of 700 yards receiving for Chicago.
Josh Sunderbruch - First-time offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has to deliver big time. A lot of hopes are pinned to him being able to unlock Justin Fields’ potential, and his ability to do so (or lack thereof) will basically decide the direction of the franchise.
Robert Zeglinski - I’m on the record of thinking Kyler Gordon is eventually going to be a superstar in the Bears’ defense. He couldn’t have picked a better situation to thrive as a rookie, too. Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams know what it takes to develop young, primed defensive back. Factor in Gordon likely getting the responsibilities of CB2 (at least initially), and I think we see him bloom right away.
Sam Householder - I am going to go out on a limb and say Kyler Gordon. He’s going to get targeted a lot and he’s going to take his rookie lumps, but he appears to be ready and able to be a day one starter. I think very quickly he will show, not only why he was taken as Chicago’s first draft pick, but why he was worthy of being taken ahead of the Bears’ other needs.
Jacob Infante - For the same reason I think Eddie Jackson bounces back, I think Jaquan Brisker will make the biggest impact for Chicago out of their new additions. Brisker’s versatility to play all over the field should make him a valuable piece of the Bears’ defense. I believe that he will step up as a solid starter from Day 1, and I have faith down the stretch that he can be one of the better safeties in the league once he reaches his peak.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. - For occasional big play impact it’s going to be Velus Jones Jr., as the Bears will scheme up some touches to take advantage of his explosiveness, but for season long impact it’ll be Brisker. I expect him to land in the starting lineup next to Eddie Jackson well before week one, and his all-around skill set will allow defensive coordinator Alan Williams to utilize him in different ways. Part of what makes the Bears new defensive scheme so tough to face is the ability to disguise coverages, and the pairing of Jackson and Brisker will give them plenty of options.
Jack Salo - Velus Jones Jr. Being wrong would feel so right, but Darnell Mooney might see a little slump when he gets shadowed by opposing teams CB1, and similar to Mooney getting open when Allen Robinson was covered, look for Jones to find holes in coverage when the focus is elsewhere. He’s damn fast too, so a little pinhole in the defense is a flood.
Rahul Ramachandran - The obvious answer here is Velus Jones for two big reasons. First off, he’s got a very unique skillset that blends in well with Getsy’s scheme. He is a legitimate threat in the backfield, on the perimeter, or winged out along the line of scrimmage, which will create mismatches across the field for the Bears’ receiving core. Secondly, he will be force-fed targets to a degree. Outside of Darnell Mooney and Justin Fields’ legs, who else is capable of being a game-changer on this offense? It might not be completely because of his talent, but I expect Velus Jones to have a big rookie year.
Which Bears newcomer do you predict will make the biggest impact in 2022?