One Bears question for each position group as OTAs continue


The Bears started their second week of OTAs on Monday. The media will get its second look at practice Tuesday at Halas Hall.

Justin Fields' development is priority No. 1 for new head coach Matt Eberflus and his staff. But the Bears have work to do across the board if they plan to make a surprise playoff run this fall.

As we enter the second week of OTAs, here is one question facing each position group:

Is Justin Fields the guy?

This one is obvious.

Fields was put behind the eight-ball during his rookie season, but he still showed flashes of star potential against the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers. The second-year quarterback needs to take a leap in Year 2 to prove he's a guy the Bears can build their franchise around.

Early returns have been good for Fields this offseason.

"You hear the stories on some of the great guys when they come into the building, they're ready to go," Bears quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said. "They're prepared mentally, they're prepared with what they did the night before, and then they're prepared to come in. This is what they do, and this is what they want to be great at, so that's what you see from him."

Running backs
How much better can David Montgomery be?

For the last three seasons, Montgomery has been a productive back for the Bears. But with Chicago's offense expected to rely heavily on the outside zone rushing attack, the Bears will need Montgomery to be effective and efficient while carrying a heavy workload this season.

Bears running backs coach David Walker loosely compared Montgomery to Jonathan Taylor when discussing how the Bears back could elevate his game.

What is clear is that the Bears will ask a lot of Montgomery this fall, and he is prepared to be a bell cow in Chicago.

"As a person, serious guy, wants to get better," Walker said of Montgomery. "The thing I like about David is he doesn't feel like he's arrived yet. You know what I mean? Some of the guys that have been in the league for a while think they have arrived. He's trying to learn from his standpoint. I believe I'm coach three in four seasons for him, so he's had to really learn every offseason something different and new.

"He's doing a good job with it. But I really like his makeup in terms of wanting to get better, pushing himself to get better. He has high standards, and we are going to do everything we can to reach those standards on a daily basis."

Wide receivers
So, who's the No. 2 option?

The Bears' receiving corps has been much-maligned this offseason. Allen Robinson left town, and the Bears filled his void with Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, rookie Velus Jones Jr., Dante Pettis, and Tajae Sharpe.

Getsy and Fields are confident the Bears have enough weapons in the arsenal and that with more opportunity, guys like Pringle and St. Brown can thrive.

That's a big bet on a group of receivers that don't jump off the page. But the Bears need one of them to emerge as a legitimate No. 2 option behind Darnell Mooney, or the passing game will flop.

Tight ends
What are we going to get from Cole Kmet?

Given the uncertainty surrounding the Bears' wide receivers, Kmet figures to play a massive role in the 2022 offense.

Kmet's targets increased from 46 in his rookie season to 89 last year, and there's reason to believe that number will increase this season in Luke Getsy's offense.

Per Pro Football Focus, Kmet had a 94.8 receiving grade on medium depth targets (10-19 yards). A typical Shanahan offense, like the one we assume Getsy will run, thrives on medium-depth routes over the middle of the field.

A reliable tight end can be a young quarterback's best friend, and the Bears need a big year out of Kmet this fall.

Offensive line
Who's the right guard?

The offensive line is the biggest issue facing the Bears' 2022 offense.

Lucas Patrick and Cody Whitehair are locked in at center and left guard. The Bears need second-year tackles Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins to progress in their development and keep the heat off Fields on the outside.

As for right tackles, the Bears have many options, and none of them are particularly appealing.
Sam Mustipher, Dakota Dozier, and rookie Zachary Thomas likely will compete for that spot in training camp. Can one of them separate themselves and prove to be a reliable option between Patrick and Jenkins?

Defensive line
Is more help on the way?

General manager Ryan Poles tried to bolster the interior of his defensive line by signing Larry Ogunjobi. Unfortunately, a failed physical negated the deal, so the Bears turned to Plan B in Justin Jones.

Chicago's interior defensive line is thin as we sit here in May with Khyiris Tonga, Angelo Blackson, and LaCale London projected to be the rotation along with Jones.

Is there a way to bring in Ogunjobi on a cheaper, incentive-based deal? Can Akiem Hicks be lured back?

UDFA to starter?

Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow will start at middle linebacker and weakside linebacker. The strongside position could be up for grabs in camp with Matthew Adams and undrafted rookie Jack Sanborn potentially battling it out.

Sanborn, a Chicago area native, is a high IQ tackling machine who was a critical cog in Jim Leonard's defense at Wisconsin. While not the most dynamic athlete, Sanborn should be able to acquit himself well as a base personnel backer.

Don't be surprised if he beats out Adams in camp.

Are Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker as advertised?

The Bears used the first two draft picks of the Poles-Eberflus era on talented defensive backs in cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker.

Chicago's pass defense was shredded last season, so Eberflus and Poles used draft capital to turn an area of weakness into a possible strength.

Gordon has already been impressing at OTAs with his ball-hawking nature and instincts. As a result, he should be the favorite to start opposite Jaylon Johnson.

Brisker should allow Eddie Jackson to play farther away from the box and return to a role he can thrive in as a deep safety.

If the Bears hit on Gordon and Brisker, their secondary could be set for the foreseeable future.

Special Teams
Who returns kicks?

The Bears drafted two versatile offensive weapons in Velus Jones Jr. and Trestan Ebner, who figure to factor into the return man competition along with Dazz Newsome and perhaps Byron Pringle.

Both Jones Jr. and Ebner are electric athletes who can change a game on special teams.

With Jakeem Grant and Tarik Cohen gone, the Bears will need new returners in 2022, with Ebner and Jones Jr. leading the pack of possible replacements.

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