The Chicago Bears wrapped their 2022 season, where they finished 3-14 and lost their final 10 games of the year. But the future is bright heading into this 2023 offseason, as GM Ryan Poles has the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, a boatload of salary cap space and a franchise quarterback in Justin Fields.
Here at Bears Wire, we counted down our 15 Most Impactful Bears for the 2022 season. We recapped their 2022 season and looked ahead to how they factor into 2023.
From impact rookies to coaches to veterans taking a step forward, we’ve rounded up our most impactful contributors from the 2022 season.
LT Braxton Jones
Jones quickly established himself as an important part of the Bears’ offensive line. Jones worked his way up the depth chart during the offseason program and proved himself to be the best option at left tackle. Jones played every snap at left tackle this season, and he was the only player to play every snap on Chicago. Jones struggled against the bull rush, and it’s clear he needs to bulk up and get stronger this offseason. But he was one of the more consistent offensive linemen for the Bears this season.
CB Kyler Gordon
But as the season progressed, so did Gordon. He found his footing in the secondary and played opponents tougher. His three interceptions all came in his last eight games, including two in a row against Pro Bowl quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. Gordon was reading plays more effectively as the year wore on and showed he was worthy of being picked so high in the draft.
DT Justin Jones
Jones was easily the best defensive lineman this season, and he provided consistency to Chicago’s weakest position group. Poles praised Jones as one of the most consistent playmakers along the defensive front this season, where he led the team in tackles for loss and was second in QB hits. Jones also found himself thrust into a leadership role following the trades of team captains Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn. When all was said and done, Jones was easily the best free-agent acquisition by Poles in 2022.
RB David Montgomery
Going into the 2022 season, Montgomery was arguably the most consistent player on offense. He’s a running back who won’t blow anyone away, but will almost always get the tough yards with his punishing running style. Montgomery contributed to the Bears’ historic rushing output in 2022, though he was the third-leading rusher behind quarterback Justin Fields (1,143) and running back Khalil Herbert (731).
RB Khalil Herbert
Herbert played a big role in the success of Chicago’s top-ranked rushing attack. He saw an expanded role in his second season as part of a 1-2 punch with David Montgomery. In fact, Herbert was one of the most effective running backs in the league. He led all running backs in yards per attempt (5.7), and he showed his playmaking ability once he hits the open field.
CB Jaylon Johnson
Johnson missed a few games shortly after due to injury and returned for a tough stretch against some of the better offenses in the league. He did well against the Dallas Cowboys, but struggled at times against the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions. He saved the best for last, however, countering nearly every punch from the Philadelphia Eagles offense and A.J. Brown in his last game played. Johnson had three passes defensed in his best performance of the season before he was shut down for the final few games. His pass coverage skills improved overall, allowing an opposing quarterback rating of 94.6, down five points from 2021.
TE Cole Kmet
Heading into the 2022 season, there were many that questioned whether Kmet had what it took to be the Bears’ franchise tight end. But Kmet answered those doubts with an impressive campaign that showed how valuable he is to this team. Kmet had a breakout season in 2022, where he led the Bears in three statistical categories: receptions (50), receiving yards (544) and touchdowns (7) — also a career high. More than that, he proved to be the most reliable pass catcher for quarterback Justin Fields.
LB Jack Sanborn
Sanborn played with elite instincts and a tenacity that was hard to match. He had 48 solo tackles in six starts, one of which was cut short due to injury. If that streak was stretched over the course of a season, he would have easily led the league with 136. For his efforts, Sanborn was named to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie team.
S Jaquan Brisker
Brisker was easily GM Ryan Poles’ best draft pick last season, where the second-rounder proved to be versatile in the defensive backfield from the get-go. Brisker moved around the field, whether it was inside the box, defending slot receivers or blitzing, and the production was there. Brisker led the team with 4.0 sacks and had the second-most tackles (104). He was solid against the run and in coverage, although he struggled with tackling at times
RG Teven Jenkins
Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, Jenkins moved inside to right guard and quickly learned how to play the position well. He rotated with Lucas Patrick for the first few weeks of the year before completely taking over the spot and flashing consistently. Jenkins was the highest graded Bears offensive lineman (80.7) according to PFF and showcased his mauler mentality that was seen over and over during his days in college.
GM Ryan Poles
Poles came to Chicago with his vision for how he wants to build this team. And that started with him tearing the foundation down and starting anew. He did that by trading away players that didn’t factor into the future (Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn) in return for draft capital, as well as releasing expensive, aging veterans. While the Bears accrued $84.9 million in dead cap, it was always about building for 2023.
OC Luke Getsy
The Bears established an offensive identity in 2022 and that was thanks to Getsy. The first-year offensive coordinator leaned on the running game all year long, setting a team record for most rushing yards in a season with 3,014 yards. Getsy’s offense wasn’t flashy, but it was effective at times as the Bears increased their points per game by 1.3 from 2021.
HC Matt Eberflus
Eberflus inherited a less-than-ideal situation in his first year as head coach. GM Ryan Poles tore the roster down to kickstart a rebuild, which didn’t leave Eberflus with much to work with. And yet, Eberflus got the most out of a young and inexperienced roster that also lost two key defenders in Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn ahead of the trade deadline. Eberflus set clear standards and expectations, including his infamous H.I.T.S. principle. Say what you want, the H.I.T.S. principle wasn’t always pretty (especially with this roster), but the culture he established was exactly what this team needed.
S Eddie Jackson
Jackson also only allowed one touchdown the entire season, another total that hadn’t been seen since 2018. He really did turn back the clock to his All-Pro season, but one can argue last year was more impressive. Jackson wasn’t playing with the same talent as that 2018 group and had to help carry this team rather than be another cog in the machine. For his efforts, Jackson was named a permanent team captain following the Quinn trade during the season.
QB Justin Fields
Fields established himself as one of the NFL’s most electrifying players, and he made great strides in his second season, particularly when it comes to his natural playmaking ability. Whether it was by design or self-preservation (usually the latter), Fields discovered that he’s an elite rusher to the tune of 1,143 yards, which fell just 64 yards short of Lamar Jackson’s single-season rushing record. There was a stretch where Fields had this struggling offense averaging 30 points per game, where he seemed to be making NFL history on an almost weekly basis.