The Chicago Bears enter the 2023-2024 season without outlandish expectations. The Bears have not had an NFL individual award winner since Brian Urlacher close to 20 years ago. General Manager Ryan Poles is trying to change this and has improved the team’s overall talent. However, if the unit is vying for a playoff spot late in the season, fans would consider that a success. Whether the team has done enough to build around potential franchise quarterback Justin Fields remains to be seen.
Examining the Most Likely Chicago Bears Award Winners
Most Valuable Player
This begins and ends with the face of the Bears franchise, Justin Fields. You have to go back to 1986 with New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor to find a defensive player who has won the NFL MVP award. This team doesn’t feature any defensive players who could scratch the surface of the league’s top award. In 2022, Patrick Mahomes won the MVP award, and Fields would need to demonstrate a significant upgrade in his passing statistics to contend for the award. Last season, Fields passed for just over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. He would need to almost double those stats and have the Bears be a playoff contender to win this award.
As a dual-threat option, Fields has run for over 1000 yards and rushed for eight touchdowns, making him the focus of every team’s defensive gameplan. To help Fields, Chicago added standout receiver, D.J. Moore as part of the trade package for the number one overall draft pick, and Fields and Moore have already demonstrated some passing chemistry.
Offensive Player of the Year
Again, this is the Justin Fields show. Realistically Fields has a better chance of winning this award than NFL MVP. Throughout last season, Fields proved to be a dynamic playmaker with his legs and as he improves as a passer, highlight plays should become a Sunday stable.
The only other Bear that merits a mention here is wide-out, DJ Moore. Since entering the league in 2018, Moore has been one of the most consistent pass catchers in the NFL. He’s recorded over 1,000 yards receiving three out of his five seasons and that is with suspect quarterback play. Moore has caught passes from the likes of Kyle Allen, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, and PJ Walker, not exactly a who’s who of the league’s best passers. If the Fields/Moore connection is as legitimate as it appears, Moore could have a career season, making him a threat for the award.
Defensive Player of the Year
The Chicago Bears defense is a unit that is in transition, and that is perhaps putting it nicely. The team had virtually no pass rush last season, with rookie safety Jaquan Brisker leading the team with only four sacks. Brisker is an interesting option when it comes to this award. Safety is an important position in Matt Eberflus’ defense and Brisker showed Pro Bowl flashes throughout his rookie year. He would need to drastically improve on his takeaways to be considered for the award, but 104 tackles, four sacks, and one interception season is an excellent building block.
Big free agent signing Tremaine Edmunds is perhaps the most recognizable name on the defense, but he lacks the flashy kind of statistics needed to win the award. Edmunds only has 6.5 career sacks, and his skills as a tackler and coverage linebacker are not going to get voter’s attention.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The Bears spent their first-round draft pick on offensive tackle Darnell Wright who has already demonstrated a lot of the athleticism that made him the number 10 overall selection. However, an offensive lineman, no matter how dominant he might be, is not going to win this award.
From a skill position standpoint, the Bears invested fourth-round draft picks in running back Roschon Johnson and receiver Tyler Scott. Johnson is the man to watch here. The Bears backfield lost starter David Montgomery to divisional rivals, the Detroit Lions, but the new number one, Khalil Herbert was able to carry the load when Montgomery missed time last season. Herbert knows the offense and is a talented back, but his place as the starter is not set in stone.
The coaching staff and media alike love Johnson, who is more known for backing up Bijan Robinson at the University of Texas than anything else. However, Johnson is a powerful runner who is only an injury away from battling for the starter position. Moreover, the Bears love to run the ball and Johnson will have plenty of opportunity to wrestle the job from Herbert.
The deep sleeper in this category is undrafted rookie free-agent quarterback Tyson Bagent. While there are still questions as to whether he has solidified his position as the team backup; his impressive training camp and preseason led the Bears to release planned veteran backup PJ Walker. Bagent set Division II records at Shepherd University and oozed confidence with his passing, running, and decision-making. If Fields goes down with an injury and Bagent is thrust into action he has the opportunity to spark the NFL with a little undiscovered magic.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
The Chicago Bears have always been known for one thing: a lockdown defense. From the days of the “Monsters of the Midway” to the defenses led by Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, keeping people out of the endzone has never been the team’s problem. Except of course, for last season, where as discussed, the team was dreadful on that side of the ball and used heavy draft capital in an attempt to rebuild.
The Bears drafted two defensive tackles, Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens in the second and third rounds respectively. Both look like they are going to get heavy playing time, and even start. While Dexter was the higher pick, I think Pickens has a better shot at winning this award. Pickens is more of a natural pass rusher, picking one up during the preseason. Moreover, Pickens was a top 10 national recruit and one of those players whose talent potential was never reached in the NCAA. He will have plenty of opportunity with a young Bears defensive front who will rely on him to get to the quarterback and begin to anchor the line.
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