The second-year jump the Bears hope Justin Fields makes in 2022 is the biggest storyline heading into the new season.
It should be. The franchise is built on the pillars of excellent defense. We don’t call them the Monsters of the Midway for nothing.
But all along, the offense has taken a back seat. They have only come in spurts. It’s never been a prolonged success on the more entertaining side of the game.
Jay Cutler had his moments, but was plagued by turnovers. He also butted heads with whoever the offensive coordinator was and his body language was poor. Other than 2018 in Matt Nagy’s first year in Chicago, the most exciting season on offense came in 2013.
That year, the Bears were second in the league in points per game at 27.8 and did it with two quarterbacks. Cutler went down in week 7 with a groin injury, but veteran Josh McCown was more than just a placeholder while Cutler was out.
In the five starts he made in 2013, McCown threw for 1,543 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett were as good as any group in the league that year. All of them, except for Bennett, were pro-bowlers that year.
Between Cutler and McCown, they had 4,450 yards and 32 touchdowns. The defense was poor, allowing nearly 30 points per game, but the offense was fun to watch. Just look at some of the plays made by Jeffery that year.
Outside of 2013, it’s hard to find a bright offensive season since the turn of the century. That’s what makes Fields’ development more critical. Mitch Trubisky was able to manage a season of exciting plays, but it was clear afterwards, whether it was Nagy’s or Trubisky’s fault, his development stalled.
Another flash in the pan.
The Bears need to make sure Fields’ development continues for years to come.
Rookie minicamp has wrapped up, providing our first glimpse as the new cast inside Halas Hall. Naturally, there was a highlighted focus on the offense and Getsy spoke to the media about his plans for 2022.
And there was a constant theme he wanted to express. Versatility.
It’s one way to defend the moves they’ve made to surround Fields with weapons.
The two players that are most locked in to their roles are Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery. Mooney, as it stands, is the top target in this offense and will line up inside and out. He can stretch the field and run underneath routes.
Montgomery will handle most of the carries and be an outlet out of the backfield. How much work second-year back Khalil Herbert gets remains to be seen, but Montgomery is the clear top option.
The next most important player is Cole Kmet. The former second-round tight end is due for a big year. He’ll be the main big target and red zone option for the Bears. He’s only 23-years-old, so his best football is ahead of him.
The draft also showed us what the Bears value on offense. Third-round pick Velus Jones Jr. excelled as a returner in college and has just one year of true experience as a receiver. But that didn’t steer the Bears away, it pulled them in. They see his skillset as a plus on offense. A speed-in-space type player that you want to get touches near the line of scrimmage.
Same goes for sixth-round pick Trestan Ebner. He has a harder path to a roster spot as a running back, but he actually had plenty of production at Baylor as a pass catcher. He had 1,515 yards receiving with the Bears of the Big 12 to go along with 1,690 on the ground. Another great returner, he’ll look to make his mark on special teams before getting a crack on offense.
Those two picks signified what the Bears are looking for in year one of Getsy’s offense. Versatile chess pieces to move all over the field. It’s an interesting approach given the depth of talent at the wide receiver spot in the NFL.
The other players to be featured in the offense are Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown.
The latter is an interesting player. St. Brown, for the most part, hasn’t proven himself in the NFL yet. The former sixth-round pick has good size (6’5”, 214lb) but never amounted to anything in Green Bay.
That didn’t stop Getsy from reeling him this offseason. He believes St. Brown can be a factor in Chicago. He’s 26 and on a one-year deal.
Most recently, the Bears added a pair of receivers to add more competition. Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis both signed one-year deals in Chicago
Based on their pedigree and production in the league, both of them figure to be in the mix for significant snaps this season. We’ll see if one or both make the cut in Getsy’s offense.
Sharpe, 27, is entering his sixth season as a fifth-round pick in 2016. His best season came his rookie year, totalling 522 yards and two touchdowns with Tennessee. Sharpe most recently was in Atlanta.
Pettis was a second-round pick in 2018 out of Washington by San Francisco. Like Sharpe, his best season came in his first. He had 467 yards and five touchdowns before being sidelined by Kyle Shanahan. Whether it was scheme fit or Pettis underperforming or just Shanahan being Shanahan, there’s some talent to work with.
Shanahan demands a very specific skill set and he has a history of punting on offensive draft picks early (Joe Williams, Jalen Hurd, Trey Sermon). Last year, Pettis was in New York with the Giants. Not exactly a well-run show there.
Mooney, Kmet, Montgomery and Herbert have solidified their roles. Chicago knows who their top options are at running back, wide receiver and tight end.
Who knows who will emerge as the second, third and fourth wide receivers. Pringle, Jones Jr and St. Brown has the upper hand in earning snaps as of now. They were signed first, and in Jones’ case, a high draft pick. Sharpe and Pettis will have the opportunity to earn a role in Getsy’s offense.
However it shakes out, there has to be noticeable improvement from year one to year two, and it has to continue from here on out. Getsy and the rest of the Bears organization knows that if Fields becomes an elite quarterback, Getsy is in line for a head coaching job one day.
Proving he can make the most of this offense in 2022 will put him on every shortlist for a head coaching job in 2023.