Chicago Bears fans weren’t sure how to feel when the team signed Byron Pringle as a free agent. While it was nice to see GM Ryan Poles at least trying to give Justin Fields more support at wide receiver, they couldn’t help but shrug. In their eyes, the 28-year-old was the fourth option in the previous offense he played in at Kansas City. It wasn’t exactly the big swing they were hoping for. Poles insisted it would help the offense more than people think.
Upon closer examination, he’s correct. Let’s get this out of the way first. Pringle will never be a Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, or Justin Jefferson. He doesn’t have that level of talent. The better way to look at him is as a vital piece to a larger puzzle. To understand why, one must look back at Fields in 2021. When examining the overall picture of the Bears’ quarterback, it becomes clear where the bulk of his struggles was when passing.
That was over the middle.
Over the 12 games he played, he went 58-of-99 for 727 yards, two touchdowns, and seven interceptions when throwing in that section of the field. Part of that was his inexperience at reading coverages, but a big part was how weak his receiving options were. The Bears didn’t have a proper slot receiving target in 2021. It was supposed to be Damiere Byrd. He played most of the snaps at that spot through the first half of the season. After ten games, he managed only five catches for 35 yards. This forced the team to move Darnell Mooney from his usual outside spot to the inside to find more success.
This is where Pringle comes in. Of the 702 snaps he played last season, over half (396) were in the slot. The Chiefs targeted him 42 times over the middle, resulting in 32 catches for 367 yards and four touchdowns. He was a problem for defenses in that area of the field.
Byron Pringle is in a similar situation to Kansas City.
What made him so effective in the slot for the Chiefs wasn’t just his ability. It was the presence of Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman on the outside. Having two legitimate vertical threats forcing defenses to devote extra coverage their way enabled Pringle to see loads of favorable matchups on the inside. Now he’s set to have the same experience in Chicago. It’s already well-known how big of a speed threat Mooney is. The Bears have also added Velus Jones with his 4.31 speed to the mix too.
There is no telling how successful Byron Pringle will be. Much of that hinges on the evolution of Fields and the effectiveness of new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. That said, nobody can deny Poles understood the bigger picture when he signed the receiver last March. If he couldn’t find a receiver that solved all problems, he’d find a receiver that could solve one.
A pragmatic approach.
Word is Pringle hasn’t wasted much time doing exactly what he was signed for. Bears insider Adam Jahns was impressed at how good he looked in early practices over the middle. If that trend holds going into the season, the offense should be in better shape than it was last year.
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