The Chicago Bears enter the 2024 NFL season with expectations as high as they've been in the last half decade. With the selections of Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze in the NFL Draft, D'Andre Swift and Kevin Byard in free agency, and Keenan Allen via trade with the Los Angeles Chargers, the Windy City is abuzz as to what could be ahead for the NFL's oldest franchise. But that doesn't mean every player on the Chicago Bears roster is getting the love they deserve heading into the 2024 season.

Below are five players who the masses are sleeping on as the 2024 season approaches. Guys who, with the appropriate spotlight or an improvement from 2023 to 2024, could be some of the league's most notable breakout players this season.

TJ Edwards 

TJ Edwards was the lesser-hyped addition that Chicago made to their linebacker corps during the 2023 offseason, but you could make the case that Edwards was one of the best and most valuable players on the entire Bears roster during the season. The winner of the Brian Piccolo Award — given annually to one rookie and one veteran who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Bears running back — Edwards was 7th in the league in total tackles last year, his second consecutive season finishing in the top ten in category.

According to Pro Football Focus, Edwards was the 9th-highest graded linebacker in the league in 2023, with top-twenty grades in both run defense and coverage. Both scouts and Bears fans have been quick to point out the many similarities between Edwards and Lance Briggs, another great Bears weak-side linebacker of yesteryear. It doesn't hurt that the Illinois kid who went undrafted in 2019 is on a very reasonable three-year, $19.5 million deal, making him just the 22nd-highest paid linebacker in the league.

Jaquan Brisker 

Second-year cornerback Tyrique Stevenson will be the trendy pick among writers, analysts and scouts to make a second-year leap, and I fully expect him to do so, but Jaquan Brisker's potential is just as exciting. Last season, Brisker was 3rd on the team in both tackles (105) and passes defended (9). He's second among players in the 2022 NFL Draft class in solo tackles since being drafted. But the Penn State product is far from content.

“I feel like the Bears haven't gotten the best version of me yet. I feel like it's going to happen this year.” Brisker told Gabby Hajduk of The third-year safety will likely be playing more in the box this year than he has the last two years, thanks to a fresh partnership with newly signed veteran safety Kevin Byard. Brisker sees the addition of Byard being a key factor in his own personal development.

“Having both of us move left and right, is going to be good for the both of us. We get the best of both worlds, which is good. It's going to show a lot of what I can do in the back end at free safety, my range. Obviously, you guys see it out there but you're going to see it more this year — my range, how I can make more plays on the ball.”

The 30-year-old Kevin Byard is excited about the partnership too, in part because he sees some of himself in Brisker.

“Like I said the confidence that he has going into year three reminds me of myself,” Byard said, per Usayd Koshul of 247Sports. “He's vocal like I am about wanting the details with different coverages with the coaches and stuff like that. He's very coachable.”

Jaquan Brisker's best game last year came in Chicago's upset win against the Detroit Lions late in the season. With 17 tackles and a forced fumble, Brisker was arguably the best player on the field against the NFC North champions.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is hit by Chicago Bears defensive back Jaquan Brisker (9) causing a backwards pass for fumble in the first half at Soldier Field.
© Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Gervon Dexter

“You’re gonna see man. He’s pretty good,” Montez Sweat said about teammate Gervon Dexter on Chris Long's Green Light Pod. “I feel like he’s still just kind of unlocking himself and being himself. And I think that’s gonna really flourish this year, but he’s a really talented kid. He’s one of those quick [defensive] tackles and was strong as hell. It’s really is really a sight to see. But yeah, he’s gonna jump out on on the scene for sure.”

Along with Montez Sweat, many analysts and Bears fans have pegged Gervon Dexter as a breakout candidate in 2024, but nobody has higher expectations than Dexter himself.

Making the jump from inconsistent rookie to All-Pro in just a single season may seem like a stretch, but with increased opportunity — 2023 starter Justin Jones is off to Arizona — and a lights out secondary making life tough for opposing wide receivers, Gervon Dexter should make notable improvements from year one to year two. The Bears need a disruptive three-technique to anchor their defensive line. When Ryan Poles selected Dexter in the 2nd round of the 2023 Draft, that's exactly what he envisioned.

Darnell Wright

A mauling run blocker who flashed brilliance at times but also had his share of struggles that are expected of a first-year tackle, Wright was named to the All-Rookie Team at the end of the season last year, and his year-over-year improvement might be the single-most important development for the Bears offense that very few members of the national media seem to be addressing. Remember, after the Bears traded the 1st overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to Carolina in exchange for a treasure chest of assets that included the Panthers' 2023 1st round pick, it was Wright who general manager Ryan Poles selected.

The Bears offensive line is in better shape than it has been in years, but what can take it from league average to top ten in the NFL is if Darnell Wright builds on what he did so well last year. According to Pro Football Focus, there's a whole lot to like about the young right tackle.

Inside of Halas Hall, the perception of Darnell Wright is just as high.

“The sky’s the limit,” Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan said of Wright, per Lester Wiltfong of SB Nation. “If he stays hungry, which I think he will because I think he’s the ultimate competitor deep down, I think he’s got the chance to be special. And I’ve been around a lot of good ones. He’s got a chance to be that.”

Chicago Bears running back Roschon Johnson (23) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Soldier Field.
© Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Roschon Johnson

Though Roschon Johnson is currently listed as the number three back on the Chicago Bears depth chart, it's possible that's not where he'll be once the season begins. Khalil Herbert will be a free agent after the 2024 season, and ever since Chicago signed D'Andre Swift in free agency, there have been rumblings that the Bears could decide to trade Herbert before the season begins. If they did, it would have just as much to do with their faith in Roschon Johnson as it does their faith in D'Andre Swift.

A teammate of Bijan Robinson in college, Johnson is accustomed to being the second-option in a backfield, but he regularly makes the most of his opportunities whenever he steps on the field. During his rookie season, the former Longhorn proved to be a hard runner, a capable pass-catcher, and most importantly, the best pass-blocker among the running backs on the roster, a rarity for a rookie. Johnson finished with the 17th-best pass blocking grade among all running backs in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

“But he's a heck of a worker, super smart, he's a tough guy and he's one of our better protectors,” Eberflus said during Johnson's rookie season, per Gene Chamberlain of Sports Illustrated.

It remains to be seen just how much Roschon Johnson will be featured in an offense that suddenly has an embarrassment of riches. But that's not going to stop him from giving everything he's got in order to give the Bears the best version of himself.

“The best thing I can do is just be the best version of me. Be tough, be physical, and play fast, smart, and decisive. I feel like the sky's the limit for us,” Johnson said recently while hosting a youth camp in Texas, according to Kierstin Lindkvist of KFDM.

If Johnson — and all of the other players mentioned — make meaningful strides in 2024, and if Caleb Williams pans out right away, then the sky truly is the limit for the 2024 Chicago Bears.