The Bears are in the midst of a rebuilding year. The roster looks a lot different heading into week nine than it did heading into week seven. Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith are gone, but Chase Claypool was brought in to bolster the offense.
The Bears are looking for anyone who can make an impact and potentially stick around for the long haul. Here are five players who have earned themselves more time in Chicago.
1. RB Khalil Herbert
I personally expected a big year from Herbert based on what we saw last year when David Montgomery missed time in the middle part of the season. He fits Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy’s offense better than David Montgomery. However, most didn’t have Herbert as the 7th ranked rusher in terms of yardage in the whole league. He gets a lot of work, but he’s very productive on each carry, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He doesn’t seem like a true every down running back because of his limitations as a pass protector, but he’s very good with the ball in his hands, and I’m looking forward to him getting even more work the rest of the season, as he’s had 2 of his biggest games running the ball in the past couple of weeks, against two really good defense.
2. RG Teven Jenkins
In August of this year, Teven Jenkins’ future with the Bears was up in the air. He had been in trade rumors, reportedly didn’t get along with the new coaches, and wasn’t on the practice field until close to the end of training camp. Oh yeah, and when he did get on the field, he had to learn an entirely new position. That being Right Guard. Fast forward to the halfway point of the season, and Teven Jenkins has looked like one of the best Right Guards in the NFL. He plays with such power and athleticism, he’s a really tough guy to beat. Jenkins seems to be fully healthy after a scary back injury right when he was drafted in 2021, which kept him out most of the season. Jenkins is starting to look like the player he was drafted to be, and that is the protector of Justin Fields. Fields and Jenkins came in together, and many Bears fans were thrilled when Jenkins was taken in early round two. Many thought the Bears were going to take him at 20. But Fields became available, the Bears moved up, took him, then traded up again on day two to land their O Lineman of the future.
3. LT Braxton Jones
Many liked the Braxton Jones pick when it happened. Thought to be a late day two caliber player, Jones was available midway through day three. The Southern Utah offensive tackle was thought to have a very high ceiling and most expected him to develop into a future starter on the offensive line, but that development was expected to take some time. However, it went the complete opposite way. Jones started getting first team reps at Left Tackle within the first week of training camp. The Bears didn’t even expect this. They signed veteran Tackle Riley Reiff a couple of days before the beginning of camp. Reiff quickly turned into a luxury because Jones put together really good practices, which led to him being inserted with the starters. The past couple of weeks, Jones has had his best games of the season, and he even looked good in week 1 going up against Nick Bosa. Jones will be looked at as General Manager Ryan Poles’ first real steal in the draft if Jones’ upward trend continues.
4. CB Kindle Vildor
Maybe the most shocking name on this list, and it doesn’t seem like he’s even getting enough credit for the turnaround that he’s had. Vildor is in his third year after being a late round pick in 2020 out of Georgia Southern. Vildor is not a guy who’s going to develop into a number 1 corner, especially with Jaylon Johnson on the team. Going against some number two and mainly number three receivers every week has made Vildor come into his own. For a team that has limited talent, they need to find some hidden gems, and VIldors breakout was certainly unexpected. The Bears main needs stand out as Offensive Linemen, Defensive Linemen, Wide Receiver, and Linebacker. Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon look like foundational pieces moving forward. A number 3 corner is so important, especially with how good teams receiving corps are. There’s a lot to be said for the scheme that Vildor is playing in. An example of this scheme helping corners play better than they actually are is Xavier Rhodes in 2020. He was one of the worst Cornerbacks in football in 2019. Minnesota let Rhodes go in the offseason, when he decided to sign with Indianapolis, where Eberflus was defensive coordinator. The next year in Indianapolis, Rhodes played at a pro bowl level. He hasn’t played since, but the scheme seems to make Cornerbacks better. It seems like that’s happening with Kindle Vildor.
5. Safety Jaquan Brisker
When Brisker was drafted, many expected him to become a pretty good player. However, not many saw him playing at an elite level this quickly to start his career. He’s played elite in coverage, he’s been hitting hard, and he’s been making good plays on the football. One of those incredible plays was picking off Mac Jones after being kicked in the groin by him just a couple of plays before. Brisker has an incredibly high ceiling. He’s got a little bit of Harrison Smith in him. If Brisker turns into that level of player, Poles hit a home run on one of his first draft choices as a general manager, and the early returns look good. Brisker seems to be a strong fit next to veteran Free Safety Eddie Jackson. Brisker has helped Jackson return to his old self from 2018, when he was near the top of the NFL interceptions. Another player Brisker compares to is former Bears Safety and Brisker’s fellow Penn State Alumni Adrian Amos. Who was Eddie Jackson’s fellow starting safety in 2018 when he had his best season? Oh yeah, Adrian Amos.