There wasn’t much fanfare for the Chicago Bears’ decision to sign wide receiver Dante Pettis this offseason. In fact, Pettis was viewed by some as a training camp body who had little chance to make the 2022 roster.
General manager Ryan Poles’ strategy to give Pettis a second (or, perhaps, a third) chance to get his career on track was bigger than that, however. Pettis wasn’t just a camp body. He’s emerged as a potentially big piece for Chicago’s offense in 2022.
Top-shelf route-runners are hard to find, and Pettis’ college career and tape from his rookie season served as clear and convincing evidence that he’s that kind of player. His upside was (and is) undeniable.
Unfortunately, there’s more than just talent required for gifted players to have long and successful careers. Pettis, who looked like an emerging star in 2018, had to learn that the hard way.
“I think every young football player, as they go through their seasons, learns a lot,” Pettis said this week, via NBC Sports Chicago. “I think my lessons were, I don’t want to say harder than anybody else’s, but it was just a different situation than most people’s journeys. So, it did teach me a lot. Not that I didn’t take football serious or anything, it’s just a different approach to it.
“Opportunities are not as easy to come by once you’re out of that first two years. Those first two years, I feel like teams are a lot more lenient with players. They give their young players those opportunities and stuff. As the years go on, especially if you’re not one of those proven vets, you’re opportunities get smaller and smaller. So just being able to take advantage of those, being ready for every opportunity that’s thrown at you.”
Pettis entered Chicago Bears training camp prepared to win a roster spot. He’s been one of the most impressive skill players on the team during the 2022 preseason and is carrying that momentum into Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers.
“He’s done a great job,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said of Pettis. “He’s presented one-on-one opportunities and he’s won them, both in the practice and the preseason games. In our game, you’ve got to have guys that are able to win those one-on-one battles. He’s done a nice job with that.”
Dante Pettis will factor in Bears’ passing game in 2022
As it currently stands, the Chicago Bears’ wide receiver depth chart should look something like this: Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones and Dante Pettis. N’Keal Harry and Tajae Sharpe were placed on injured reserve, which suggests another pass-catcher could be added to this group. But even if Pettis begins the year behind bigger free-agent names and a draft pick, his on-field play should elevate him quickly.
Call it a hunch, but I think Pettis will be Mooney’s primary running-mate sooner than later. And that’s a good thing for Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense.
“Guys can come in as high as can be and halfway through the season they’re not even playing,” Pettis said, via NBC Sporst Chicago. “Just come in every day with the attitude that I have something to prove, that little chip on my shoulder and being confident in yourself and being able to go to work every single day.”