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Alyssa Barbieri, Brendan Sugrue, Ryan Fedrau

Bears 2022 End of Year Awards: Picking MVP, Breakout Player of the Year and more

The Chicago Bears wrapped their 2022 season with a 3-14 record, which culminated in a 10-game losing streak.

While Chicago finished with the worst record in the league, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. Not only do they have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft and around $118 million in salary cap space, but they have their quarterback in Justin Fields.

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As we look to close the page on the 2022 season, our Bears Wire staff share their picks for our End of Year Awards, including MVP, Offense and Defensive Players of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Breakout Player of the Year and Most Disappointing Player.

Most Valuable Player

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Alyssa Barbieri: QB Justin Fields

There’s really no competition when it comes to Justin Fields, who actually managed to keep things exciting during a 3-14 season. Heading into this season, the hope was Fields would take a step forward in his development. But I don’t think anyone expected him to emerge as one of the NFL’s most electric players, where he was setting records almost on a weekly basis coming out of the mini-bye week. He set the single-season record for rushing yards by a QB (178) and fell just 64 yards shy of breaking Lamar Jackson’s single-season rushing record. Without Fields, this miserable season would’ve been torturous.

Brendan Sugrue: QB Justin Fields

Justin Fields was the most exciting, electric, and impactful member of the Bears last season. He single-handedly kept the team in games thanks to his incredible ability to make something out of nothing and keep plays alive. He’s just the third QB in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and broke multiple records last year. Yes, the Bears were the worst team in the league record wise. They would have been the worst in every other offensive category without Fields.

Ryan Fedrau: QB Justin Fields

It’s so hard to pick anyone else but Justin Fields as the team’s MVP. If he didn’t play at all this season, they likely would have gone 0-17. Fields passed for 17 touchdowns and 2,242 yards in his 15 starts this season.

Nate Atkins: QB Justin Fields

Although the Bears had the 23rd-best offense in the NFL, without Justin Fields’ legs, it easily would’ve been the worst in the league. Despite an effective passing game, Fields was able to use his legs to accumulate the second-most rushing yards for a quarterback in NFL history. The combination of his passing and running led to 3,385 total yards and 25 touchdowns.

Offensive Player of the Year

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Alyssa Barbieri: QB Justin Fields

Let’s be honest, Fields carried the offense on his back this season. And he was their offense. It was evident in the two games he missed due to injury (vs. Jets and Vikings), where it was just brutal to watch. Meanwhile, Fields had this same offense averaging 30 points per game at one point. Fields was a big reason why Chicago maintained the NFL’s top rushing attack throughout the 2022 season, where teams just didn’t have an answer for his elite speed and athleticism.

Brendan Sugrue: QB Justin Fields

Fields WAS the Bears offense for much of the year. He did it all, whether it was designed quarterback runs to pick up first downs or firing deep passes with poor protection. For the same reasons he’s the team’s MVP, he’s clearly the offensive player of the year.

Ryan Fedrau: QB Justin Fields

There wasn’t a more explosive player on offense than Fields. In fact, his 1,143 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games was the only exciting part of the offense this season. When Fields missed time, the team couldn’t even score, let alone move the ball. He was hands down the team’s best offensive player.

Nate Atkins: QB Justin Fields

Despite the criticism of the second-year quarterback as a passer, Fields improved as a full-time starter for the Bears. His completion percentage improved to 60.4%, his interception percentage declined, and his air yards per attempt increased.

Defensive Player of the Year

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Alyssa Barbieri: S Eddie Jackson

No one benefited more from the addition of Matt Eberflus than Eddie Jackson, who bounced back in a big way in 2022. Despite missing the final five games of the season, Jackson led the Bears with four interceptions, after not notching an interception in the previous two seasons, and two forced fumbles. He was reminiscent of his playmaking self from his first couple of seasons in the league.

Brendan Sugrue: S Eddie Jackson

Eddie Jackson had an incredible season prior to his foot injury later in the year. He led the Bears in interceptions with four, while also forcing two forced fumbles, and brought stability to the secondary. As basically the last man standing from the old regime, Jackson made sure to show he could still be counted on to make plays.

Ryan Fedrau: S Jaquan Brisker

With the trades of Roquan Smith, Khalil Mack, and Robert Quinn, the Bears defense was at a disadvantage by the end of the trade deadline. Jaquan Brisker was one of the players who stepped up on defense this season, with 104 tackles, one interception, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and led the team with 4.0 sacks as a rookie. What a great draft pick by Ryan Poles in the second round.

Nate Atkins: S Eddie Jackson

Eddie Jackson led the team in interceptions (4), forced fumbles (2), and made a return to special teams, although not as a returner. As the oldest and longest-tenured Bear on the defense, Jackson seemed to embrace a leadership role and mentored rookie safety Jaquan Brisker, who had a great year.

Rookie of the Year

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Alyssa Barbieri: S Jaquan Brisker

It was evident from the start that Jaquan Brisker was going to be a key contributor on defense, and he stepped up in a big way as injuries ravaged the secondary. Brisker was second in tackles (110), including five for a loss, and also led the team with 4.0 sacks. Brisker was the perfect complement to Jackson, who was able to get back to his natural free safety position and thrive.

Brendan Sugrue: LB Jack Sanborn

There’s no wrong answer between Jack Sanborn and Jaquan Brisker so I’ll go with the guy who came out of nowhere and did a heck of a job replacing one of the best linebackers in the league. Sanborn stepped up in a big way when Roquan Smith was dealt, notching double-digit tackles in three of his final four full games. When he got snaps, Sanborn was the most consistent player on defense.

Ryan Fedrau: S Jaquan Brisker

As mentioned as the defensive player of the year, Jaquan Brisker is also the Bears’ rookie of the year. I can make an argument for Jack Sanborn, but he didn’t play the whole season. That being said, the nod goes to Brisker. Brisker has a bright future and will be a great piece to the Bears rebuild on defense. He’s an exciting young player. What a steal for the Bears.

Nate Atkins: S Jaquan Brisker

The Bears’ second-round pick was second on the team in tackles with 104, including four sacks and five tackles for loss. Brisker was third among all rookies in total tackles, and his presence as a box safety unlocked Eddie Jackson, allowing him to return to his Pro Bowl levels.

Comeback Player of the Year

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Alyssa Barbieri: RG Teven Jenkins

Jackson is the easiest answer here, so I’m going with someone else who made quite the comeback in his second year: Teven Jenkins. It’s been quite a rollercoaster for Jenkins, who missed most of his rookie season due to a back injury and whose future was in doubt last offseason. But Jenkins making the switch to right guard was the best thing that happened to Chicago’s offensive line. Jenkins, who found a new home inside, was the Bears’ best offensive lineman and probably the only one who’s guaranteed a starting job heading into 2023.

Brendan Sugrue: S Eddie Jackson

The turnaround Jackson had from his last couple years to this one was extraordinary. The addition of Brisker allowed Jackson to play more of a ballhawking safety once again, but he still looked rejuvenated following hardships both on and off the field. While all hope seemed lost this time last year, Jackson found new life with the Bears.

Ryan Fedrau: TE Cole Kmet

FINALLY, Cole Kmet showed up. Fifty catches for 544 yards and seven touchdowns, a career high. Kmet and Fields have the potential to have a good connection for years to come. If they can take things to the next level in 2023, the sky’s the limit.

Nate Atkins: S Eddie Jackson

After two years without an interception, the Bears’ defensive staff allowed Jackson to return to deep safety, a position where he’s comfortable. Chicago was rewarded by moving Jackson, who turned in 4 interceptions, his most since 2018. The sixth-year player also had 80 tackles and had the second-fewest missed tackles in his career.

Breakout Player of the Year

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Alyssa Barbieri: TE Cole Kmet

This is the Cole Kmet we were all hoping to see during his first two seasons, and all it took was an adequate play caller to help put it together. Kmet was a bright spot in an otherwise brutal passing attack, where he led all pass catchers in receptions (50), yards (544) and touchdowns (7). He was Fields’ most reliable receiver, and he made a strong case for a contract extension heading into the offseason.

Brendan Sugrue: RG Teven Jenkins

Teven Jenkins went from a man without a position in August to being the best lineman on the team in November. Jenkins moved from tackle to guard in his second season, but excelled inside. He had the highest PFF grade of any offensive lineman on the team (80.7) and was an absolute mauler when he was allowed to consistently play. Jenkins broke out in 2022 and his future is bright.

Ryan Fedrau: S Eddie Jackson

For me, I was glad to see Eddie Jackson bounce back the way he did in 2022. Jackson had 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 80 tackles during the season. This was a huge turnaround compared to the Eddie Jackson in 2019.

Nate Atkins: TE Cole Kmet

With 50 receptions for 544 yards and seven touchdowns, Kmet had his breakout year. The Notre Dame product set career highs in yards per reception (10.9), catch rate (72.5%), and touchdowns (7). He added a rushing touchdown to his totals and was the lone bright spot for Bears pass catchers.

Most Disappointing Player of the Year

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Alyssa Barbieri: OL Lucas Patrick

Lucas Patrick was supposed to bring stability to the center position, which is why he was my favorite free-agent addition before the season. Unfortunately, injuries marred his first season with the Bears, including a broken thumb that kept him at guard until Week 7. But when Patrick finally got his chance at center, he suffered a season-ending foot injury just 10 plays in. Just a complete disappointment, whether it was injuries or his inconsistent play.

Brendan Sugrue: OL Lucas Patrick

Lucas Patrick was signed last offseason to be the team’s new starting center, giving the Bears a better anchor on the interior of the offensive line. He played just 10 snaps at the position for the whole season. Patrick’s thumb injury forced the Bears to play him at guard, where he was ineffective. When they finally moved him to center, he suffered a season-ending foot injury. That led to the Bears playing Sam Mustipher all year long. Whether it was poor play or unavailability, Patrick was a colossal disappointment.

Ryan Fedrau: WR Chase Claypool

He isn’t the worst player on the team but Chase Claypool was certainly the most disappointing of you considering his compensation. The Bears gave up their second-round pick, (No. 32) which is really like a first-round pick because the Dolphins have to forfeit their first-round pick this season, for Claypool. His stat line: 14 catches, 140 yards, 0 touchdowns. Something has to change this off-season or else this will be looked at as one of the worst moves in Ryan Poles’ young career as the team’s GM.

Nate Atkins: DE Al-Quadin Muhammad

The Bears’ defensive staff brought Muhammad in from Indianapolis after his breakout season. However, after signing a two-year deal with the Bears, he turned in one sack and one tackle for loss. Muhammad’s arrival delayed the development of last year’s breakout star Trevis Gipson. Through the first four games, Gipson got less than 50% of the defensive snaps in favor of Muhammad. But despite fewer opportunities, he turned in 3 sacks and four tackles for loss, outperforming and eventually splitting reps with coach Eberflus’ guy. 

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