The Chicago Bears officially ushered in a new era when they permanently named 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields the starting quarterback in October. Fields was thrust into the action when then-starter Andy Dalton suffered a knee injury, though the Bears saw the future staring them in the face and went with the rookie for the remainder of the regular season.
It wasn’t pretty, as the Bears finished 6-11 while firing head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace following the season. Enter new coach Matt Eberflus and executive Ryan Poles and the Bears will officially look very different in the 2022 NFL season.
It’s been a relatively quiet offseason in Chicago with the Bears’ free agent additions, such as Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, barely moving the needle.
In April’s NFL Draft, Chicago addressed the secondary, selecting cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker with their first two picks, then bringing in receiver Velus Jones in the third round.
Such moves don’t exactly inspire fans to expect a winner in 2022. While Poles stressed that this would be more of a retooling than a rebuild in his introductory press conference, one can’t help but feel that this team is closer to landing inside the top-15 picks of next year’s draft then competing in the NFC North.
However, if Fields shows the promise that made him a first-round pick and the Bears show some potential on the field, fans will consider it a step in the right direction.
That said, here are three way too early predictions for the Bears in the 2022 NFL season.
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Bears Way Too Early Predictions For 2022 NFL Season
3. Darnell Mooney takes another big step forward
2021 was a coming out party for Darnell Mooney, who rattled off career-highs in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Mooney emerged as a reliable pass-catcher for Fields, who looked his way more often than Pro Bowler Allen Robinson, who bolted out of Chicago for the defending-champion Los Angeles Rams.
That means that Mooney is the guy in Chicago now. With the likes of Pringle, St. Brown and Jones on the depth chart with Mooney, the Bears’ receiver room is bound to get a lot of who-is-that-guy comments this year.
The Bears will need a big year out of Mooney once again. The third-year pro will likely be subject to more defensive attention than he’s ever seen in his NFL career.
After spending the offseason training and staying at Fields’ home in Atlanta, Mooney strengthened the bond with his quarterback while also meticulously working on their on-field chemistry together. The result will be another step forward in a Pro Bowl campaign for Mooney in the 2022 NFL season.
2. Justin Fields enjoys a breakout season
Justin Fields had a bit of an uneven rookie year last season, throwing for 1870 yards, seven touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while rushing for 420 yards. Fields looked a bit shaky as a passer, though he did have his moments.
He flashed a devastating ability to extend plays a la Russell Wilson, with moments like this proving to be back-breaking for opposing defenses.
JUSTIN FIELDS ARE YOU SERIOUS?! #DaBears
📺: #SFvsCHI on FOX
📱: NFL app pic.twitter.com/i8nVWJPukV
— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2021
Plays like that show what Fields is capable of- and the Bears star has big expectations for himself in 2022. Just ask teammate, Darnell Mooney, per NBC Sports Chicago:
“He wants to take over the league,” Mooney said. “He’s already Justin Fields. He wants to be the best quarterback in the league. He’s taken the strides to be there. I’ve got unbelievable faith that he will be there, and his success is my success.”
Fields wants to be the best quarterback in the league. While many say it, he actually has the tools to make it happen. The Bears starter fits right into the mold of the modern-day, mobile quarterback and has a strong-enough arm to make defenses pay if they over-commit to defend the threat of his mobility.
Fields is already becoming a leader in the locker room, as he called the Bears out at minicamp for “not being ready to play a game.” You can just see his confidence growing by the day.
He’ll put it all together in 2022. Fields will enjoy a breakout year this NFL season.
1. The Bears will take a step back in the win column- but show progress as a team
The Bears may be hard-pressed to equal last year’s six wins. They play the Packers twice, the Buffalo Bills once and have dates with the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, all playoff teams from 2021.
However, the Bears could still have a successful year. If they play hard for Eberflus, Fields shows signs of progress and the young defense shows potential, it will be hard to consider the year a failure.