The Chicago Bears have already completed over one week of training camp at Halas Hall and a few players are standing out, both positively and negatively.
There’s still a long way to go until the final roster is set and preseason games have yet to get underway, but here are the winners and losers at this point during camp for the Bears.
Winner: S Jaquan Brisker
Jul 29, 2022; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive back Jaquan Brisker (9) talks with reporters during training camp at PNC Center at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
It was just a short time ago that there was concern over Jaquan Brisker’s availability due to a potential contract holdout. But that situation was resolved quickly and Brisker picked up where he was left off in the offseason program. He’s been flying around the ball and making plays in seemingly every practice. Whether it’s an interception, fumble, or a pass breakup, Brisker has made a strong impression already in the secondary.
Brisker is solidifying himself as the team’s starting strong safety, opposite Eddie Jackson. The next step will see how he fares during preseason games but there’s no reason to think he can’t keep up this play.
Loser: OT Teven Jenkins
Jun 16, 2021; Lake Forest, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears Teven Jenkins in action during minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The Teven Jenkins saga continues to get stranger and stranger. Jenkins came into camp already working to regain his starting position back, but after one week, has been dealing with immaturity rumors, possible trade talks, and an injury that’s kept him out of practice for days. Even when he was an active participant, Jenkins was rotating as the extra lineman on jumbo packages, indicating he’s still far from becoming a starter again. It’s an odd development considering he was solid in his limited snaps during his rookie year.
Now entering just his second season after he was selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Jenkins’ days in Chicago might already be numbered. Even if he doesn’t wind up getting moved, it’s difficult to see him playing meaningful snaps at any point for head coach Matt Eberflus.
Winner: CB Kyler Gordon
Chicago Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon speaks at a news conference during the NFL football team’s rookie minicamp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Brisker isn’t the only rookie defensive back that’s making an immediate impact. The Bears first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, cornerback Kyler Gordon, has had a strong start to camp as well. Gordon missed the team’s mandatory mini camp earlier this summer with an injury, but hasn’t been slowed by anything during camp. He’s shown his versatility, playing both outside and nickel corner in team drills. Gordon is flying all over the field and as his teammate Jackson puts it, is making plays even when it’s not his man.
Gordon has the ability to play either cornerback spot, but has spent more time at the nickel position working against slot receivers. It’s a position that has plagued the Bears over the last few years and wherever Gordon can have the most impact, that’s where he’ll play when the season begins. Still, he’s making his presence known while going up against the team’s receivers.
Loser: C Lucas Patrick
Jun 14, 2022; Lake Forest, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears offensive lineman Lucas Patrick (62) warms up during minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The good news for the Bears is they’ve been relatively lucky when it comes to serious injuries at this point during camp. The bad news is center Lucas Patrick is the exception. Patrick injured his thumb during last week’s practice and is set to miss the next few weeks while he recovers. Patrick should be ready for the Bears one week matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, but he’s missing valuable reps with quarterback Justin Fields as the two need to work on their chemistry.
With Patrick out, rookie Doug Kramer has seen the majority of the first-ream reps at center with mixed results. The Bears will need Patrick to return to stabilize the interior of the line but it sounds like that won’t happen until the regular season.
Winner: WR Equanimeous St. Brown
Chicago Bears wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown walks on the field at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Lake Forest, Ill., Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Heading into camp, the Bears top wide receivers appeared to be set with Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, and Velus Jones Jr. with the rest likely battling for a roster spot or positioning on the team. But through one week, veteran Equinimeous St. Brown has been turning heads and consistently building a rapport with Fields as one of his go-to options. st. Brown is one of the team’s bigger receivers and is starting to stand out. It helps that he has experience in this offense after coming over from Green Bay, but his chemistry with Fields is what might be most exciting.
st. Brown has been connecting with Fields more frequently, catching passes for big gains and scoring over defenders in team drills. Fields singled him out as the other receiver he’s building a rapport with, outside of Mooney. st. Brown could even become one of the starting receivers by stacking more solid practices on top of each other.
Loser: WR Tajae Sharpe
Jun 14, 2022; Lake Forest, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (88) warms up during minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
While receivers like St. Brown, Mooney, Jones, and others have made flashy plays over the last week, veteran Tajae Sharpe hasn’t seen the field yet. Sharpe was placed on the non-football injury list (NFI) prior to camp beginning and was just activated on Tuesday. He was already battling for a roster spot when he signed as a free agent this spring, but now he’s behind the other receivers and will need to really stand out to make up ground.
Sharpe will come into practice as one of their “X” receivers but will be competing with players such as St. Brown and N’Keal Harry. Both players have had flashes in camp so it’s an uphill battle for the seventh-year veteran.
Winner: CB Kindle Vildor
Chicago Bears defensive back Kindle Vildor (22) smiles as he talks with teammates at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Lake Forest, Ill., Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Arguably one of the biggest surprises of camp thus far has been cornerback Kindle Vildor. The third-year defensive back was essentially left for dead after his poor season in 2021 and with the Bears drafting Gordon, it was reasonable to expect him to be a benchwarmer at best. But Eberflus has other plans and has been impressed with Vildor’s ability. For a good portion of camp, Vildor has been starting at the outside cornerback positon opposite of Jaylon Johnson, with Gordon playing nickel.
Vildor has shown up big in the run game, both in previous seasons and in this year’s camp. His pass coverage still needs to improve but he’s in a good position to become a starter if he can continue to get better.