First Game Rookie Jitters? Certainly Not the Bears

If one aspect of the Bears 19-10 win over the San Francisco 49er’s stood out Sunday afternoon, it was the overall performance of five of our eleven draft picks from the 2022 NFL Draft. Those rookies are the following: Punter Trenton Gill, Left Tackle Braxton Jones, Safety Jaquan Brisker, DB Kyler Gordon, and Defensive End Dominique Robinson. Each rookie held their own on Sunday afternoon and gave Bears fans plenty of encouragement looking into the future. Head Coach Matt Eberflus has repeatedly said that he prefers to play young talent on his teams. And it surely showed in the box score with all five of the rookies playing meaningful snaps. We’ll look back on Sunday and briefly analyze each rookie’s performance.

The most impressive performance of the rookies in my opinion was the play of 5th round pick Dominique Robinson. Selected with the 174th pick of the draft, the former quarterback turned defensive edge rusher displayed his athleticism during pass rush situations. Robinson finished playing 41% of the snaps and recorded 7 tackles with 1.5 sacks. His most impressive play came on his solo sack when he beat All-Pro tackle Trent Williams around the edge and was able to spin down Trey Lance with only one arm. Robinson said he was able to key on pass plays by watching the feet of Williams pre-snap.

Safety Jaquan Brisker also turned in a great performance on Sunday. On the 49ers first possession of the game they were able to drive the ball into the red-zone. The 49er’s then ran one of their patented outside sweep’s with Deebo Samuel hoping to get him into space on the edge. DB Jaylon Johnson made a great play on the ball and was able to Peanut Punch the ball out. Brisker had a great reaction to the loose ball and was able to pounce on it. Brisker also made another nice play in the red-zone in the second half. From second and goal from the Bears 4 yard line, the 49ers handed it off to backup running back Jeff Wilson in hopes of punching into the endzone. Brisker came flying in from his safety position and was able to take down Wilson in the backfield for a two yard loss. The 49ers ended that drive settling for a field goal. Brisker finished with 4 tackles, one for a loss, and a fumble recovery.

Defensive back Kyler Gordon had an above average debut. He got burnt in coverage one play on a deep out route from the slot, but was able to bounce back nicely after that play. He finished third on the team with six tackles and also was able to record a tackle for loss. Gordon played 100% of the defensive snaps and played not only out wide, but also in the slot. His ability to play both positions allows the Bears defense to be extremely flexible.

On the offensive side of the ball, the only rookie who saw meaningful snaps was rookie Tackle Braxton Jones. Jones played 100% of the offensive snaps and was tasked with slowing down 49ers All-Pro Nick Bosa. How does that sound for your first career start? It’s tough to judge a lineman by looking at a stat sheet. But one thing did stick out to me. Jones committed no penalties in his first career start. That is encouraging given the fact he had to slow Bosa and deal with a slick playing surface. For what it is worth, PFF gave Jones a 62 grade.

Punter Trenton Gill will round out this rookie review. The most notable from the rookie punter was the bizarre penalty that he triggered just before the half when he brought in a “foreign” object onto the field (it was a towel) to clean the kicking surface for kicker Cairo Santos. The penalty knocked the Bears out of field goal range and they were forced to punt. Gill didn’t have to leave the field as he is obviously the punter. Instead of shanking one out of bounds from being rattled, he seemed to take out his frustration on the punt and was able to pin the 49ers inside the 10 yard line on the ensuing possession. Gill finished the day punting with an average of 46 yards and a long of 58 yards.

The rookies had a good debut. Ryan Poles picks have already earned the trust of the new coaching staff. Look for them to have ups and downs as the season progresses, but expect to see more good from bad in their future play. One player to keep an eye will be Velus Jones Jr., who did not play because of a hamstring issue sustained during camp.
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