LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears open 2022 NFL training camp Wednesday at Halas Hall. Here is an overview of some scenarios:
The Biggest Question, Part 1: Do Robert Quinn show up for training camp? The star passing thrower, who set the franchise single-season sack record in 2021 with 18.5, skipped the entire program in the offseason. The Bears had hoped Quinn would show up for the mandatory minicamp, but he was the only player with no excused absence. Although the building blocks of that defense have changed with the Bears installing a new scheme amid a rebuild, the 32-year-old defensive end is still an important part of Chicago’s passing rush. General manager Ryan Poles didn’t seem keen on moving Quinn, but if he doesn’t show up for camp, trade talks will resume in full force. The question then becomes how much Chicago can get in exchange for a pass-rusher after a career-best season. First gesture of the Poles as GM traded Khalil Mac to the Chargers for a 2022 second-round pick (which the Bears used to draft safety Jaquan Brisker) and a sixth round in 2023. Quinn enters her 12e season and probably wants to compete for a championship. Can the Poles find a competitor for Quinn while getting a third-round pick in exchange?
The Biggest Question, Part 2: Does Justin Fields have enough guns around him? Chicago has steadily added to its receiving corps since signing Byron Pringle in free agency and using a third-round pick on Velus Jones Jr. The team enters training camp with 13 wides after sending a 2024 seventh-round pick to New England in July for the former first-round pick round N’Keal Harry, but will any of these additions be enough to help Fields make a big leap in his second season? The receiver is one of Chicago’s biggest question marks after Fields threw four touchdowns and 10 interceptions while targeting wides last season, and his only proven connection is with Darnell Mooney (81 catches, 1,055 yards, 4 affected). The Bears are banking on big contributions from Jones, whose 4.3 speed and ability to line up in multiple spots gives the offense flexibility. Can they also find reliable depth in players like Equanimeous St. Brown, David Moore, Dante Pettis and Tajae Sharpe?
The most convincing positional battle: Does the rookie Braxton Jones stick to left tackle? The Bears are betting that a Day 3 draft pick will provide Fields with adequate pass protection at the most important spot on the offensive line. However, this might be their best option, which speaks to a greater lack of staff initially. The last scheme in Chicago used a second-round pick on Teven Jenkins in the hopes that he would eventually start at left tackle. The new coaching staff moved Jenkins to right tackle with the second-team unit, where he spent most of the offseason. Additionally, the Bears moved larry borom at right tackle against Jones with the first team. Coming out of the draft, some projected Jenkins as a better fit at guard. When asked if Jenkins or Borom – neither of whom played a single shot at guard during minicamp – could potentially compete for an inside spot, coach Matt Eberflus noted that ” all combinations are open” along line O.
Are there any players the Bears could add by Week 1 that will have a significant impact on the roster? Probably not. Poles remains committed to its long-term approach (while carefully choosing not to classify this endeavor as a rebuild) by taking no perceived “shortcuts” to improving the listing. The Bears parted ways with more than two dozen players from last year’s team in free agency. During an offseason where star receivers — a needy position in Chicago — changed teams at a high rate, the Poles stayed true to his ethos. “I really believe in local talent,” Poles said in April. “I really believe in getting the right players and developing them here and that will help us in the long run.”
Chicago has north of $20.7 million in cap space for 2022, which is fourth among all teams. Of course, there are quality veterans the team could look to sign during camp who would fill the gap, especially up front with offensive tackles Daryl Williams and Eric Fisher still available. While signing one or two players at this point in the offseason won’t change a team’s roster, it could provide an upgrade in some areas, like pass protection for Fields.
Camp Forecast: The Bears’ first draft pick, Kyler Gordon, will be better than expected. No player will make more interceptions in training camp than Washington’s cornerback. I’m going to go even further and predict that Gordon will continue his momentum from training camp into the season and lead the Bears in interceptions, becoming the third rookie to achieve this feat in franchise history.