By Herb Howard
The Bigs Bears Beat Reporter
The Chicago Bears, utilizing an NFL rule that allows teams with new Head Coaches to practice earlier than teams with returning Head Coaches, are set to begin a three day Voluntary Minicamp today. After a disappointing 6-11 campaign in 2021, Bears’ ownership decided to fire General Manager Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy, ushering in a new era of Chicago Bears football. Led by first time GM Ryan Poles, and first time HC Matt Eberflus, the Bears are eager to get on the field and begin to form their identity and roster for the 2022 season.
No player will be more important to the Bears’ success/failure than 2nd year QB Justin Fields. While addressing the media on Tuesday, the young leader acknowledged that his rookie year was filled with “ups and downs”, and that he “learned a lot”. If Fields continues his development, and becomes the player that Bears fans hope he can be, Chicago will be well on its way to “taking over the North and never giving it back”, as GM Ryan Poles proclaimed they would do during his introductory press conference. If, for any reason, Justin does not ascend to an elite level, the Chicago Bears will once again be hitting the reset button in the not-to-distant future.
While it is not ideal to have the 2nd year pro already trying to learn his second offense, the Face of the Franchise seems to be taking the challenge head on. In the offseason, he was joined by WR Darnell Mooney and TE Cole Kmet for workouts in Georgia, as he tries to shorten the learning curve for himself and two of his top would-be targets. Justin also told me that he expects the entire Offensive side of the ball to be present for this week’s Voluntary Minicamp, as the group begins to collectively digest a new system, led by Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy, who comes to the Bears after serving as the Green Bay Packers QB Coach and Passing Game Coordinator the last two seasons.
While most Bears fans and media members seem pleased with the hire of Matt Eberflus as HC, it remains to be seen how soon the Bears veterans will buy-in to his philosophy. Attendance at this three-day Voluntary Minicamp provided some insight as to how that process is going. The Bears had a pretty good turnout, with the vast majority of their current roster in attendance. Noticeably missing, however, was S Eddie Jackson and DE Robert Quinn. When I asked Coach Eberflus if the absence of Jackson concerned him, he said no, citing that some players are away training or rehabbing injuries on their own. The players that are here seem to be getting familiar with their new Head Coach’s way of doing things. In speaking to the media this morning, 3rd year pass rusher Trevis Gipson said that he has already heard about the H.I.T.S. principle (Hustle, Intensity, Takeaways, Smart) no less than 50 times from his coaches in the short time that they’ve been together. Gipson said that the players were all told to report to camp in shape and ready to run.
After the Bears parted ways with veteran stars like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Allen Robinson, expectations are not high for this season. Most people view the 2022 season as a reset year for the club, and expect them to begin to compete next year, with a realistic chance to be a Super Bowl contender in 2024-2025. However, if the Defense, led by Roqaun Smith and Robert Quinn, can come together quickly, and Justin Fields takes a significant step forward in his development, the Chicago Bears could surprise some people and be a competitive team this year.
But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves! The Bears still have The Draft, any additional Free Agent signings, and a full Training Camp before we truly know what this roster will look like. For now, it was just good to see them back out on the grass, doing something that vaguely resembled football activities.