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Chicago Bears Late August Scouting Report
With the preseason in the books, letâ€™s have a look at the Bearsâ€™ roster after final cuts, plus news and notes:
After a couple of decent outings in the first two preseason games, QB Justin Fields was masterful in the preseason finale in Cleveland. In the same house of horrors where he had his disastrous NFL debut last year, Fields completed 14 of 16 passes for 156 yards and three TDs. Yes, Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney did not play, but this was still a tantalizing look at Fieldsâ€™ potential in the Luke Getsy offense. Rollouts, bootlegs, play action... the sorts of things that I and many Bears fans begged for last season, they were all on display and will be staples of this offense.
In terms of Fieldsâ€™ fantasy prospects for this season, letâ€™s be real here: youâ€™re probably not drafting him to be your starting quarterback unless youâ€™re a Bears/Ohio State fan. He doesnâ€™t have a lot of help around him. But if you have room on your roster for a high-upside QB2, he could be an option there. And if Fields continues to blossom in this offense, he can absolutely be a streaming option for you once the bye weeks hit. The talent is there, the drive to be great is there. But can he win from the pocket enough without being overly reliant on his legs? Can he go through multiple progressions and hit the open man often enough (and will he have enough time to do so?) Can he improve his accuracy and ball security? In other words, can he do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke? (Soccer joke) The NFL version of that would be, can he do it on a cold, snowy day at Soldier Field? Thereâ€™s no guarantee, but we will see.
RB David Montgomery got his first preseason action in Cleveland and looked ok, running nine times for 28 yards. RB Khalil Herbert will be his backup, and rookie RB Trestan Ebner (who suffered an ankle injury in the second preseason game) made the team and will be the third-stringer/special teamer. I'm not super-high on Montgomery for this season, mainly because of the uncertainty about how this new coaching staff will use him. Herbert will get his share of carries, and Ebner may factor in as a third down change-of-pace back because of his receiving skills and speed. Plus, you know what youâ€™re going to get from Montgomery: a no-frills, hard runner who isnâ€™t going to have a lot of splash plays. Iâ€™d look at him as a low-end RB2 going into the season. Should Montgomery get injured, we know that Herbert is capable of good production in a starting role, so heâ€™s an ideal handcuff if you draft Monty.
In most weeks, WR Darnell Mooney is going to be the only fantasy-worthy Bears receiver. Heâ€™s the teamâ€™s clear #1 receiver and the one who has the best chemistry with Fields, and we know heâ€™ll get loads of targets. But my main question is how will he handle facing the opponentâ€™s best corner every week? Thatâ€™s why I have him as a high-end WR3 to start the season, but I absolutely think heâ€™s capable of producing at a WR2 level if Fields does well in this offense.
WR Equanimeous St. Brown will be the #2 receiver and could have a career-best season with a bigger role here than he ever had in Green Bay. His 6-5 height should make him a red zone threat. Projected slot receiver WR Byron Pringle missed the entire preseason with a quad injury. Rookie WR Velus Jones Jr had a nice 48-yard punt return in Seattle but missed the first and third preseason games and missed time with injuries throughout training camp as well. WR Nâ€™Keal Harry (high ankle sprain) will likely be placed on IR this week with a designation to return. WR Dante Pettis had a nice game against the Browns, including a TD, and that probably helped secure his roster spot. WR Tajae Sharpe had a nice start to camp/preseason but then got injured. Heâ€™s made the team for now, but this is a position that may be in flux until the season opener.
I think TE Cole Kmet is in line for a breakout season, and we saw one example of why against the Browns. On a nice play action rollout to the right, Fields had the option of running, throwing short like he had earlier, or throwing deep, putting the defense in a bind. This time, after a defender bit, Fields found Kmet standing by himself in the end zone for a TD. With Jimmy Graham gone and no sure thing at wideout other than Mooney, Kmet could easily be the de facto #2 receiver on this team. I have him as a low-end TE1 going into the season. TE Ryan Griffin will be the backup. TE Jake Tonges is listed on the roster as a fullback but has tight end size at 6-4 and could be a hybrid H-back sort of player. Considering that this offense is expected to utilize 12 personnel a fair amount, additions here are a possibility.
When the Bears signed veteran G Michael Schofield and veteran T Riley Reiff at the start of camp, it looked they would both slot in as starters. As it turns out, neither one will. Schofield was part of final cuts, and Reiff is now essentially a swing tackle. Rookie T Braxton Jones won the left tackle job, and second-year man T Larry Borom will start on the right. Hopefully C Lucas Patrick (thumb) will be ready in time for the opener. The G Teven Jenkins saga has wound up with him now the presumed starter at right guard after the team put him there before the Seattle game. Itâ€™s not altogether surprising that heâ€™s now a guard, considering that some thought that was where he projected best coming out of college, but it looked like he wasnâ€™t even going to be on the roster a few weeks ago. He is a mauler at heart, and that should serve him well at guard. This is obviously a young group, and some would say itâ€™s one of the worst in the league. But all I can say is let the kids play, and weâ€™ll see what happens.
The LB Roquan Smith soap opera ended with him deciding to end his "hold-in" and pledging to play the season out. Rookie S Jaquan Brisker unfortunately suffered a thumb injury during his impressive preseason debut against the Chiefs and needed to have surgery on it, but thereâ€™s a chance heâ€™ll be ready for the opener. With Brisker as the box safety, S Eddie Jackson talked positively during camp about being able to play center field again, which will hopefully lead to more takeaways like he had earlier in his career. Rookie CB Kyler Gordon played in the last two preseason games and showed flashes. It looks like heâ€™ll primarily play nickel corner for now, with CB Jaylon Johnson and CB Kindle Vildor outside. Vildor needs to be better than he was last season.
In terms of 2022, the secondary should be better. Smith should be productive in the Lance Briggs role on the weak side. The pass rush obviously wonâ€™t be as potent with Khalil Mack gone, but DE Robert Quinn is still here (for now), DT Justin Jones has been solid so far at three technique, and DE Al-Quadin Muhammad has provided knowledge of Matt Eberflusâ€™ defense and veteran leadership. Eberflusâ€™ "HITS" principle has everyone swarming to the ball and looking to produce takeaways the way that Lovie Smithâ€™s defenses used to. I see this unit as a middle-of-the-pack fantasy defense for now, with some upside.
PK Cairo Santos will kick, with rookie P Trenton Gill holding and punting (and possibly kicking off as well). Santos missed a field goal against the Browns but is still a top kicker in terms of accuracy. The main question will be how many scoring opportunities heâ€™ll get, making him a lower-tier kicker option for now.
More to come next week with my Week #1 preview report!
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2023 Madness NFL Rookie Draft Reference Guide
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Premium Pro Bowl and Super Bowl Package Subscribers take note. The time has come. The 2023 Madness NFL Rookie Draft Reference Guide has been released for your viewing pleasure. This
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