The 2022 Bears training camp will be remembered most for the Roquan Smith hold-in and the injuries that struck a pair of already questionable position groups, wide receiver and offensive line.
Those weren’t the headlines that general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus wanted in their first Bears camp, but without many “stars” of camp, it became easy to remember who was on the sideline.
The final weeks, though, presented the franchise with optimism, including Teven Jenkins’ potential revelation at right guard, the return of rookies Kyler Gordon and Velus Jones Jr. from injury and the continued progress of Eberflus’ culture, as seen in the way the Bears played in Seattle.
The Bears are treating this week like a regular-season game week with their practice schedule, ending the training camp portion of the summer. The Athletic’s Adam Jahns and Kevin Fishbain reflect on the past four weeks.
Most impressive player, offense
Fishbain: WR Darnell Mooney. It’s a repeat title for Mooney. Last summer was more of a revelation — there were high hopes for Mooney, but he was the No. 2 receiver in camp. Now he’s the No. 1, and there’s a big drop-off to No. 2, which was evident through Mooney’s performance. He caught everything thrown his way. His route running is on a different level. He has the best rapport with quarterback Justin Fields. It’s an easy choice but still reassuring for the Bears that Mooney was a playmaker this summer.
Jahns: RG Teven Jenkins. Who doesn’t appreciate a good comeback story? After the Bears traded up for Jenkins in the second round last year, he underwent back surgery and saw only 161 snaps on offense. This year, an undisclosed injury resulted in seven missed practices in camp and fueled trade speculation. He went from being the Bears’ future at left tackle to a potential bust. He changed that after he returned, but also changed positions. He’s now looking at taking over as the Bears’ starting right guard, filling a major offseason hole. He’s not the Bears’ best player, but he has impressed nonetheless.
Most impressive player, defense
Fishbain: DT Justin Jones. I considered a couple of defensive backs — Jaquan Brisker and Jaylon Johnson — but Jones was probably the most consistently dominant. Sure, he’s not going up against all-world interior offensive linemen in camp, but that’s why it’s good to see how often Jones won his reps. You don’t want him to be average if the assumption is that he’s more skilled than his adversary. Jones is plenty motivated and confident about what he can do in this defense, and in the past month, he showed that.
Jahns: S Jaquan Brisker. In search of immediate-impact players, the Bears found a good one in Brisker, the 48th pick in the draft. His preseason debut, which included ruining a Chiefs possession by himself, earned rave reviews. It was an extension of what he was doing in camp. The bad news is that he hurt his right hand in it. Brisker, though, should be OK for the season opener, or so the Bears hope. From Brisker’s physicality to his ball skills, the defense already looks different with him in it.