The Chicago Bears are 1-2, they’re coming off one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history, and their prized rookie first-round pick, quarterback Justin Fields, is suddenly in a bizarre quarterback controversy with Andy Dalton and Nick Foles.
Needless to say, things aren’t going so great in the Windy City.
It’s easy to get caught up in the narratives crystalizing around the Bears. Head coach Matt Nagy is on the hottest of seats; general manager Ryan Pace’s strange decisions like keeping Jimmy Graham instead of Charles Leno Jr., releasing Kyle Fuller and replacing him with training-camp casualty Desmond Trufant, or drafting an injury-flagged offensive tackle in the second round have been exposed.
These storylines aren’t going away anytime soon. At least, they’ll remain until the Bears start winning games, which doesn’t seem like a probable outcome unless Nagy commits to and properly game plans around Fields.
Regardless, it’s important for Bears fans to take a step back and, in the words of a certain rival Hall of Fame quarterback, ‘relax.’ It’s not all terrible in Chicago. Some players are performing at or above expectations.
Here are the Bears’ highest-graded players per Pro Football Focus after three games.
OT Jason Peters (75.7)
This one’s probably hard to believe, especially after watching Peters get eaten alive by Myles Garrett on multiple occasions in Week 3’s loss to the Cleveland Browns. But according to PFF, it’s Peters who sports the team’s highest pass-blocking grade among the Bears’ starting offensive linemen and his run-blocking grade is at the top, too. Peters missed some snaps in Week 2’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals but has logged a total of 142 reps this season.
RB David Montgomery (70.4)
Unlike Peters, Montgomery’s standing as the second-highest graded player on Chicago’s offense (among the key starters) isn’t difficult to understand. He’s currently fourth in the NFL in rushing among running backs this season (203 yards) and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. His 147 yards after contact ranks fifth-best in the league. Montgomery has been bottled up the last two games, with Week 3’s loss to Cleveland being more about the game plan failing than anything Montgomery did wrong. He only had 10 carries in a contest that, for most of the four quarters, was a close enough score to keep feeding him the rock.
WR Darnell Mooney (63.7)
Mooney hasn’t had a breakout moment yet this season and, to be honest, has been somewhat underwhelming through three games. But he’s done enough to earn the team’s third-highest offensive grade (among key starters). Mooney’s slow start is, in part, a product of the Bears’ struggling passing attack. He’s only been targeted twice this season on passes longer than 20 yards, which is mind-boggling considering his downfield speed and playmaking abilities. The majority of his targets have been of the short variety—zero to nine yards. He has 10 of them (with six receptions). Mooney has six times the number of targets behind or within nine yards of the line of scrimmage as he has downfield. That’s a problem.
CB Jaylon Johnson (77.3)
Johnson’s hot start cooled a bit in Week 3 against the Browns when he shadowed Odell Beckham Jr. for most of the game and surrendered a total of 57 yards on three receptions. Still, his 77.3 grade is tops on the defensive side of the ball and he’s proven to be the team’s most important defensive back following Fuller’s release and Eddie Jackson’s continued regression. Johnson is the one true building block the front office has in the secondary moving forward.
EDGE Khalil Mack (67.1)
Mack has the Bears’ second-highest grade on defense, but it still isn’t great. At least, not by his standards. Mack’s never earned a season-long mark of less than 86.5, so if his score after three games tracks for the rest of the year, it will be by far his lowest-graded season from PFF. Still, if Mack has proven anything throughout his career, it’s that he can go on a monster run of sack production that will boost all end-of-year analytics. It’s way too early in the season to begin worrying about Mack declining as a player. He’s second on the team in pressures (7) and tied for first with three sacks.
DL Akiem Hicks (66.6)
Hicks is a mainstay at or near the top of any list of Bears defenders playing well. It’s no surprise he’s third among key starters on PFF’s grading scale. He has as many QB pressures as Mack and has the team’s highest overall pass-rush grade (75.2). At almost 32 years old, Hicks remains one of the most impactful interior disruptors in the NFL.
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