The Chicago Bears are coming off a disappointing 6-11 record that prompted the team to clean house not only with a new front office and coaching staff, but with a roster turnover that saw over half the team depart. There are some holdover veterans looking to make their mark as professionals, but also a lot of new faces trying to make an impact in 2022, so here’s todays roundtabel question that was posed to the WCG staff.
Who will be the breakout Bear in 2022?
And here’s how we answered...
Robert Zeglinski - Come on now. It’s Justin Fields. Quite honestly, it can’t be anyone else if the Bears will have a future. Fields because he’s supremely talented, and Fields by necessity.
Rahul Ramachandran - Justin Fields. Objectively-speaking, he was really impressive in year 1 regardless of what the numbers say. He played pretty well from the pocket, and made big-time plays with both his legs and his arm. He passed the eye test for me with flying colors last year, and when you pair that with the year 2 leap most rookies take, I predict Fields to cement himself as our quarterback of the future this season.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. - The QB1 will take the step we all want him to take. Fields is the most physically gifted quarterback the Bears have ever had, but it’s his work ethic and football IQ that has his teammates all believing in him.
Peter Borkowski - Hopefully, this is the year Cole Kmet has that big season we’ve been waiting for. In his first two seasons, Kmet has run into the issue of being in a crowded tight end room. Last season alone featured Jimmy Graham, Jesse James, and J.P. Holtz. Now, with the departure of all three of those guys, the room looks a lot clearer for Kmet to truly be the go-to TE, as the Bears just won’t have as many established TEs to spread the love to. On top of that, Luke Getsy should do wonders for Kmet.
In 2020, Getsy’s first year as the Packers passing game coordinator, Robert Tonyan broke out with over 500 yards, which was over five times his previous career high, and 11 TDs, which tied Travis Kelce for the most by a TE that season. So combine Getsy’s know-how, a cleared out TE room, and the talent Kmet has flashed previously, especially in the YAC category, and I think Kmet is poised to finally have himself a fantastic season.
Ken Mitchell - Cole Kmet. This offense should suit his skillset well, and it generally takes tight ends two full seasons in the league to settle in. This should be his year to take a step forward in the red zone.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter - A lot of people are going to either hate me or at least disagree with me for saying this. But, I feel David Montgomery is the one Bears player who’s set to break out in a big way. How is he going to be a breakout player at RB in year four? By being utilized properly and given the role as a featured back under Luke Getsy. For all the focus we’ve placed on how Justin Fields will play in this offense, comes the reality they’re going to smash the ball until a consistent passing game begins to gel. Luke Getsy has spoken highly of David Montgomery and flat out said he’ll have a bigger role on offense in 2022.
Matt Nagy has committed many shameful acts. The way he (under) utilized David Montgomery is one of his biggest screw ups. I’ve heard a great deal about David Montgomery’s lack of efficiency in terms of production. Has anyone ever stopped and asked, “well, do the play calls and the play designs themselves have anything to do with that?” Yes. Yes they do. Design the playbook to the strengths of the players themselves. I have a good feeling if the Bears are a competitive team this year, David Montgomery will be a big reason why. Put the ball in his hands and wear opposing defenses out. Let him dominate the game as he’s proven himself capable of doing.
Aaron Leming - Call it a gut feeling but I think Khalil Herbert is going to be a huge force in this new offense. From a schematic standpoint, I think the transition to wide zone will benefit him the most. I also felt like he showed the most burst and overall explosion out of the team’s running backs in 2021. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe David Montgomery won’t be involved but I also think it would behoove the Bears to give Herbert a chance for a serious role in this offense. Especially with Montgomery being in a contract year.
Patti Curl - Byron Pringle. Pringle has shown the ability to pop whenever he’s been given the chance. With ample opportunity, I suspect Pringle won’t be able to stop popping in this offense. Yeah, I made a chip joke. But when it comes true, you won’t be mad.
Sam Householder - I hope it’s Justin Fields. He’s going to be in a better scheme and should have a somewhat more stable OL in front of him. But he doesn’t have a ton of playmakers around him. The other guy I thought of for this question is Trevis Gipson. His roll is changing a bit going to a 4-3 front, but he had seven sacks a year ago and five forced fumbles and was still less-heralded behind Robert Quinn’s monster season and Khalil Mack. If Gipson can adjust to Eberflus’s defense, Gipson could be looked at as a breakout player not just in Chicago but around the league.
Bill Zimmerman - While everyone is going to say Justin Fields (which hopefully is the right answer), I’m going to go a different route and go with Trevis Gipson. Last year PFF had Gipson nearly in the top 10 for pass rush productivity. If he can continue that trend in 2022 with a larger snap count, we could see Gipson go north of 10 sacks.
Jacob Infante - Teven Jenkins. While I believe Justin Fields will take some steps in this coming season, the weapons around him are just okay, and even with a Jenkins breakout, the offensive line has its fair share of question marks. That said, I think this is the year that Jenkins exceeds everybody’s expectations. He flashed some serious potential coming back from his injury near the end of 2021, and with a full offseason to slim down and work on his game, I believe he solidifies himself as the best offensive lineman on the Bears’ roster.
Jack Salo - Roquan Smith. He’s earned a second 2nd Team AP All-Pro, although failed to find the Pro Bowl votes often reserved for players on Lombardi-contending teams. ‘Quan is about to get a contract this preseason, and follow-up with a season setting franchise records. You know the people who are fans of players instead of teams? They may start shopping for his jersey soon. He’s a layup pick for breakout Bear.
Josh Sunderbruch - Jaquan Brisker. He’s a first-round talent playing for a coach who knows how to use defensive backs on a roster that needs the skillset he brings.
Who do you think will be the breakout Bear in 2022?
And speaking of 2022 breakouts, we’re excited to announce a new host to our WCG Podcast Channel, so check out Taylor Doll in this sneak peak of Jeff Berckes’ summer podcast series, The Hopium Den, and be on the lookout for Taylor’s new show debuting soon!