Chicago had nine rookies start at least a game for them, with 12 rookies appearing in at least 12 games, and 18 rookies got time in at least one contest for the franchise. General manager Ryan Poles committed to the rebuild, and the experience many first-year players received could pay dividends next season after the Bears bolster their roster in the draft and via free agency.
No rookie played more for the Bears than starting left tackle Braxton Jones, and here’s what PFF said about him.
One of the steals of the draft class so far. The Bears’ fifth-rounder did enough to put himself as their undisputed long-term starter at left tackle. He finished with a 79.4 run-blocking grade and a 70.5 pass-blocking grade on the season.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching Jones this season, and he has done enough to warrant a legit shot at locking down left tackle for the next several years. He has room to grow, but his self-awareness of his play has me excited about his development.
I did a quick Jones breakdown at 2nd City Gridiron after what was probably his best game of the season, week 16 against the Bills, but unfortunately, he followed that up with a rough game in Detroit the next week.
Jones’ rookie year was up and down as a pass blocker, but he looked like a seasoned veteran in the running game. Chicago’s offensive scheme helped his overall pass block grade because it was much lower in “true pass sets” (i.e., pass plays using play action, screens, a time-to-throws under 2 seconds).
But I’m not discouraged by his play at all. Rookie offensive linemen struggle more often than not, and he has the work ethic, athleticism, and football IQ, to attack the offseason.
Here’s what PFF had to say about safety Jaquan Brisker.
Brisker always seemed to be around the ball for Chicago as a rookie. He finished his first season with 28 defensive stops, the 10th-most of any safety in the league. And he did it all from a number of alignments, with 371 snaps coming from the slot, 150 along the line of scrimmage, 289 deep and 100 from the slot.
Brisker’s versatility was the second thing I noticed about him during training camp. The first thing was his athleticism. He was quick and fluid running around Chicago’s secondary, and it was no surprise he was a week one starter. He led the Bears in sacks with 4 and was second on the team with 104 tackles.
His 955 defensive snaps were second on the team, with another rookie right behind him (Kyler Gordon) at 864. In fact, no team in the NFL had more rookies play on defense than the Bears with 29.2% of their defensive snaps coming from first-year players. The Texans were next at 25.2%, followed by the Chiefs at 24.3%, the Lions at 23.4%, and the Giants at 20.1%.
Here’s what PFF had to say about Chicago’s third All-Rookie performer, middle linebacker Jack Sanborn.
Sanborn was a revelation in his albeit brief stint as the starting linebacker for the Bears. In six games as a starter, he racked up 24 defensive stops. Extrapolate that to a full 17-game season, and it would have ranked second in the league. That’s quite the start of a career.
Sanborn had some immediate buzz when the Bears signed him as a UDFA from Wisconsin. It continued when he flashed during training camp and grew even more during the preseason games when he led the Bears in defensive tackles (14) and special teams tackles (4) while adding an interception and fumble recovery.
He only saw one defensive snap through the first seven weeks of the regular season, but in his six starts, he racked up 59 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and a fumble recovery.
In case you missed it, we discussed all three of these rookies, plus we recapped Chicago’s 2022 season in our latest Bear & Balanced.