The Chicago Bears’ rebuilding process starts Tuesday as training camp fully opens for veterans at PNC Center at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.
Rookies reported last Saturday under new general manager Ryan Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus as the Bears try to improve on a third-place finish in the NFC North under quarterback Justin Fields.
Let’s take a look at how the roster shapes up and how Illinois sportsbooks size up the Bears heading into camp.
IllinoisBet.com used Google Trends to find Chicago’s most-searched position groups over the past 30 days heading into training camp. Linebacker was tops on the list.
After determining those groups, IllinoisBet.com utilized Google Trends to find how much each player in that position group is being searched over the past week.
Bears Most Searched Position Battles
Illinois Search Rankings for Bears LBs
Breaking Down the Position Battles
Roquan Smith, a fifth-year pro out of Georgia, is one of the league’s best linebackers. He should be the focal point of the defense, especially after the loss to Khalil Mack to free agency. Smith has recorded 348 solo tackles (163 combined in 2021), 14 sacks and five interceptions in his career.
However, though Smith has reported to camp, he is not expected to practice until he has a new contract, according to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
If the Smith situation gets rectified, the linebacker position was strengthened with the signing of three veteran free agents: Nicholas Morrow from the Las Vegas Raiders; Matt Adams from the Indianapolis Colts and Joe Thomas from the Baltimore Ravens.
Under defensive coordinator Alan Williams, Chicago will be transitioning to a 4-3 scheme.
Other linebackers competing for roster spots: Jack Sanborn, Christian Albright, C.J. Avery, Noah Dawkins and Caleb Johnson.
Wide receivers need to produce for Fields, who is learning a new offensive scheme under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
The Bears lost Allen Robinson to free agency, so Darnell Mooney (81 catches, 1,055 yards, five TDs in 2021) definitely will be a go-to guy.
Byron Pringle is coming off a career season last year with the Kansas City Chiefs; he caught 42 passes for 568 yards and hauled in five touchdowns, including two in the Chiefs’ wild-card playoff home victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Velus Jones, a third-round rookie out Tennessee, led the SEC in kickoff return yardage. He has speed and run-after-the-catch ability that will help Fields immensely in his growth. Former New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry was recently acquired and also should help.
But for Fields to do anything, the Bears’ offensive line must drastically improve. It did so by signing guard Michael Scofield to a one-year contract on Monday.
Scofield, 31, has 81 career starts over seven seasons, including a second stint with the Los Angeles Chargers last season.
Scofield will add much-needed experience to help second-year players Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins. Left guard Cody Whitehair and center Lucas Patrick both return and fifth-round left tackle Braxton Jones of Southern Utah State could see the playing field immediately.
Bears Super Bowl Odds
Here is BetMGM Illinois Sportsbook with odds on the Super Bowl. We are including the top 10 and where the Bears fall on the odds boards.
The Bears are +1000 to capture the NFC North Division at BetMGM Illinois Sportsbook, with the Green Packers a huge favorite at -165. The Minnesota Vikings are +260.
Even the Detroit Lions, at +850, are more highly regarded on Illinois sports apps than Chicago.
The Bears are even a bigger longshot to claim the NFC at +4000 and are tied with the New York Giants in 24th place to win the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., at +10000.
IllinoisBet,com will have extensive coverage of Bears and Illinois NFL betting.
The site also offers the best Illinois sportsbook promo codes.
Another Bears Player to Watch in 2022
Third-year player and former Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet will provide a steady and reliable option for Fields. Kmet had no touchdowns last season, but he did catch 60 passes for 612 yards in 17 games.