While it is subject to change (and it will likely change), the Chicago Bears’ recently released their first 2022 depth chart ahead of their preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s filled with some interesting decisions, so let’s go through it and comb over some of the more intriguing aspects of this first draft.
Let’s start off by covering the placements we largely expected to see that came to fruition, most of which include starters from last year reclaiming their spot. Justin Fields as QB1 is the non-surprise of the century, and after the less-than-whelming QB battles we’ve seen over the past couple of Bears’ training camps, it’s nice to know that the position is more of a certainty this season.
With the offseason departure of Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney has officially taken over as the Bears’ number one wide receiver. How he’ll handle the new role will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow this upcoming season. David Montgomery, Robert Quinn, Jaylen Johnson, Eddie Jackson, and Cole Kmet are all returning as starters from last season as expected.
First Look at the O-Line
After an offseason of discourse, we finally get a first look at how the o-line will be configured. As predicted, Cody Whitehair, Michael Schofield, and Riley Rieff are listed at the top of the chart for LG, RG, and RT respectively (although, Rieff was mostly being penciled in at LT after his signing). Lucas Patrick, who was brought in over free agency to be the new starting center, fulfilled that task, being named center number one. However, injury could complicate that for the time being (more on this in the next section).
Where the o-line depth chart gets a little surprising is the listing of rookie Braxton Jones as starting left tackle. Many held the belief that Larry Borom would snag that spot, especially with all the drama surrounding Teven Jenkins. Reports of Jones impressing at training camp have been aplenty, so the decision isn’t completely out of the blue. Still, whenever a rookie is able to outwork more experienced players, it’s always worth a look at.
How Injuries Affect the Chart
There are some spots on the depth chart that are up in the air due to injuries. As stated earlier, Lucas Patrick is listed as the starting center but will most likely miss time due to surgery on a broken thumb. Sam Mustipher, who has inhabited the center spot for the Bears over the past two seasons, is listed right behind Patrick, so there’s a good chance we’ll see more of Mustipher at center until Patrick is available. The Bears’ staff could also decide to move some personnel around, like have Cody Whitehair take some snaps at center, which he has experience at.
The number one slot wide receiver is listed as Bryon Pringle, who is dealing with a quad injury. While it is unknown just how long Pringle will be out, it’s likely his role is filled by a youngster looking to get their shot, especially during preseason. Dazz Newsome, a 2021 6th-round pick, is listed as SWR2, so he might be getting some time there in the near future. Rookie Velus Jones Jr. might also get some looks in the slot, but Jones Jr. is dealing with some day-to-day injuries and his status isn’t certain for any upcoming action.
While not listed as a starter, N’Keal Harry’s injury, which is projected to keep him sidelined for quite a while, still does raise some concern about the wide receiver group’s depth. Will a young player step up and fill his role until his return in the regular season? Or will the Bears go out and pick up an experienced free agent? His absence might not be as immediately impactful as Patrick’s and Pringle’s (who are listed as starters), but it is a depth issue the Bears will have to address in some form or another.
Will Jenkins and Smith Be Around?
Amidst the uncertainty that Teven Jenkins and Roquan Smith will be on the Bears long term, their spots on this depth chart feel more tentative than others. Smith is currently listed as a starting linebacker, which is to be expected of one of the league’s best linebackers. If he ends up leaving, Matt Adams, his current back-up, would probably be the next man up, especially considering he came over to Chicago from Indianapolis this past offseason along with Matt Eberflus.
Jenkins’ situation appears a little more hopeful than before, but it still isn’t great by any means. Unlike Smith, Jenkins is not currently listed as a starter (he currently sits at RT2 behind Riley Reiff), so a trade involving him would have less impact on the depth chart. Still, Jenkins feels like a candidate to move up into one of those starting spots considering the talent he has flashed in the past, so his absence could have more long-term consequences on the team than current.
Surprise Non-Starters on the Defense?
Thomas Graham and Al-Quadin Muhammad were both given fair shots to be named starters. Graham showed promise in limited action last season, and many had the sophomore penciled in as the starting nickelback and a potential breakout candidate. Instead, he’ll start out as Tavon Young’s back-up. This feels like a position battle that could change the most going into the season, so Graham could very well end up as NB1 sooner rather than later. Until then, he still has some proving to do.
Muhammad, another player who made the Indianapolis to Chicago move with Eberflus, was expected to have a major role on the defense considering his familiarity with Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams. However, the 27-year-old finds himself behind incumbent Bears Trevis Gipson and Robert Quinn. Maybe it is not that surprising a reveal with both Gipson and Quinn having standout seasons last year, but it is a little interesting to see one of Eberflus’ carry-overs starting out as RDE2.
Youngsters Getting Their Shot
It has been known for a while that this would be a much younger Bears team than years past (with all the turn-over this offseason), and this depth chart confirms that. Fifteen players listed as starters are 25 years old or younger, with four rookies filling these spots. Those players are:
- Equanimeous St. Brown (LWR1)
- Darnell Mooney (RWR1)
- Braxton Jones* (LT1)
- Cole Kmet (TE1)
- Justin Fields (QB1)
- David Montgomery (RB1)
- Trevis Gipson (LDE1)
- Justin Jones (DT1)
- Roquan Smith (WLB1)
- Jaylon Johnson (LCB1)
- Jaquan Brisker* (SS1)
- Kyler Gordon* (RCB1)
- Trenton Gill* (P1)
- Dazz Newsome (PR1)
- Khalil Herbert (KR1)
* - Denotes Rookie
Any surprises that you see in this first depth chart?
How do you think the depth chart will look for week one?