Who Are the Bears Core Players?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune
answers your questions.

“In Sunday’s column, you gave the impression that there is almost no core of players Ryan Poles
can build upon for next season and that it could take two to three years to build the Bears into a contender. Yet a number of games were lost by relatively small margins, which would suggest the Bears should win significantly more games next year and perhaps make the playoffs. Are you perhaps being too negative about the current roster and the chances for next year? — Russ T., Palos Heights”

“Bad teams find ways to pull out games here and there, and the Bears are a bad team mired in an eight-game losing streak, tied for the longest in one season in club history.”

“When looking to the future — and with two games remaining in a 3-12 season, that’s where the focus has to be — a critical eye is needed unless you simply want to view everything as a glass that’s not just half-full but overflowing.

“NFL teams often color-code players in pro scouting to get an idea of a roster’s strengths and weaknesses. There are many variations and everyone has their own little twist (some use numbers), but the bottom line is they’re evaluating players relative to others at the same position leaguewide.

“A color-coded scheme goes blue, red, purple and orange, often with a plus or minus to differentiate even further. Blue is an elite player who can start for any team, a perennial Pro Bowl talent.”

“What makes it challenging to forecast success for the Bears in 2023 is this roster doesn’t have a lot of blue — and maybe doesn’t have a single blue.”

“When you step back and evaluate the current depth chart — and when you see the surplus of elite players that recent opponents such as the Bills and Eagles have — you get a better idea of how far off the Bears are from doing more than trying to wiggle into the playoffs with a record near .500 at this time next year.”

Biggs gave a very long answer to this question, most of which I cut out but all of which I agree with.

However, in order to simplify the response I’d like to take a look at the Bears current roster and simply evaluate players that you can consider to be the core of a future playoff starting unit. The list of core players is pretty short. I included everyone about whom I thought a reasonable case could be made in the table below with my own judgement. Your mileage may vary.

I make it at 15 core starters but 3 are special teamers. Out of the 12 who remain, as Biggs states, none could reasonably be considered as blue players. In addition, only 5 are on the defensive side of the ball (Brisker, Gordon, Jackson, Johnson and Sanborn). Jackson is 29 and none are defensive linemen.

Bottom line, no matter how you slice it, the Bears have a lot of work to do.

Bears Performance on Defense Against the Bills Was More Worrying than the Offensive Woes

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives his 10 thoughts after the Bears loss to the Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve. Biggs found the offensive struggles to be worrisome in their simplicity.

‘The Bills showed if a defense can prevent Fields from running the ball, the Bears can’t get anything done offensively. That’s sort if what we saw at the start of the season too.’

Biggs went on to quote a couple of Bills players who confirmed his suspicion. Stop Fields from running and its over. But personally, I don’t think that not entirely fair in that the conditions on Saturday accentuated the problem.

In those conditions at Soldier field in the wind and cold weather where gripping the ball was difficult, passing was a problem for both teams. Even the centers were having trouble snapping the ball. Kickers struggled to make short field goals and even extra points.

Passing in those kinds of conditions is a serious issue. Both teams were forced to run the ball. Both defenses knew it and therefore sold out to stop it.

Biggs is correct in that Fields got an incredible amount of attention from the Bills. I don’t need to watch the all-22 to see that they had at least one spy on him every play and that every single defensive player had their attention focused on him.

Unlike the Bills, the Bears, of course, don’t have much of a passing game under the best of conditions. With so many players like , Equaminious St. Brown and Chase Claypool injured the Bills were in a much better position to execute such a game plan. And, of course, the offensive line was patchwork with both guards injured.

Yes, the Bears running game was unable to beat a good team under such conditions. And that’s worrisome because there are no excuses. But I would argue that even the sliver of a passing game that they would have had in better weather would have led to much, much better results even with the make shift starting lineups. They needed more than they got. But I would argue that they didn’t need much more. The weather made the difference.

So my conclusion from the lack of a run game outside of Feilds is not quite as dire as Biggs’ suggest that it is.

On the other hand, the problems on the defensive side are much more of an issue in regard to the above because it made their job much more easy on a day when the Bills didn’t perform at their best. Not being able to stop the Bills from running over them despite knowing that this was what they had to do is very problematic. Biggs tells the story very accurately.

‘The Bears have averaged 19 points in Fields’ last four starts. The defense has been bad more consistently. The Bears were horrendous in this spot, allowing an offense that usually leans heavily on quarterback Josh Allen to run the ball to feature others. Devin Singletary carried 12 times for 106 yards — tied for the second-biggest game of his career — scoring on a 33-yard run. Rookie James Cook had a season-high 99 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 27-yard play.

‘These are smaller, change-of-pace backs who just gutted the Bears as the Bills rolled up a season-high 254 yards rushing with Allen getting 41 yards on six carries. It’s the fourth time this season an opponent has rushed for more than 200 yards against the defense. The Bears gave up four 200-yard games in 2013 and 1951, and the team record is five in 1955. This was just a trampling.

‘”There were some big holes,” Singletary said. “The big guys up front were moving people — I mean moving people. Guys on the outside were holding their blocks and most of the time all we had to do was beat one person.”

‘That is because the Bears were playing primarily with a single-high safety and we saw another display of consistently poor gap discipline. When it gets really bad — like this — different players take turns and it turns into a total mess.’

‘The Bears need to totally overhaul the front seven in the offseason.’

Couldn’t agree more. The Bears are overwhelmed in the run game and can’t generate a pass rush without blitzing. Any rebuild has to start along the defensive line.

Generally speaking, unlike the offensive woes with a playmaker like Fields on the team, this game showed that the defensive woes are as dire as anyone could possibly express.

Why Should the Bears Keep Playing Their Starters? There Are Some Good Reasons for It.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune
answers your questions.

“The Bears have had their share of injuries to key players with all of them basically happening during meaningless games. Is it time to shut down the starters? Would hate to see another injury or lose the No. 2 pick as they continue to build. Your thoughts? — @capncoverspicks

‘There’s no way this is a consideration for the coaches at Halas Hall, who continue to plan each week to put the team in the best position to win.’

‘[Bears head coach] Matt Eberflus was asked about Justin Fields‘ passing in the last two games and pointed to continued improvement on a weekly basis. Growth is happening and he has to be on the field for that to continue. No one in the building has a fatalistic view of the final three games, wondering, “What could happen to Fields?” They’re intrigued to see what’s next in his development.’

Biggs makes a lot of good points in his response (many of which I cut out). However, in my opinion it’s this last point that is the major factor here.

It isn’t just quarterback Justin Fields. The vast majority of the starters on the Bears team right now are young players who are all continuing to develop. Logging game time is critical in order to facilitate that development.

Even the players that aren’t young and developing or putting plays on tape which have a major impact on their future. But the key for the Bears right now is to get better on every single snap of every single game.

There is one more factor to be considered here. With so many players in the formative stage of their development, teaching them what professional football and being a member of that fraternity means is an issue. This rant by J.J. Watt, then of the Houston Texans, as he struggled through the end of the 2020 season typifies what that is.

‘We’re professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money if you can’t come in and put work in in the building go out to the practice field and work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not be here this is a job.

‘We are getting paid a whole lot of money there are a lot of people that watch us and invest their time and their money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of [ __ ] and they care about it they care every single week. We’re in week 16 and we’re 4 and 11 and there’s fans that watch this game that show up to the stadium that put in time and energy and effort and care about this so if you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there and win you shouldn’t be here.’

I couldn’t agree more with Watt (you should really watch the entire video).

It’s important that the Bears play and play hard the rest of the season both for the fans and for the future development of the team.

Is Justin Fields Listening to the Coaches?

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes about the woes of the Chicago Bears when they try to score points late in close games.

“If a lesson is to be learned from (QB Tom) Brady, it’s that sometimes you have to take what the defense offers. He put on a master class last Monday on the final two drives by rallying the Bucs almost exclusively with passes thrown underneath. If the defense is going to take away something — deep throws down the middle and vertical boundary routes — it’s going to open up something else.

“That’s where the Bears ran into trouble against the Packers with a deep dig route to Equanimeous St. Brown that Jaire Alexander intercepted at the Green Bay 28-yard line with 2:52 remaining and the Packers leading 20-19.”

“Instead, Fields could have hit running back David Montgomery as a check-down target, picked up 5 yards and moved to second down in a situation in which a field goal at the end of the game would have won it.”

I haven’t had must time to check the previous game recordings but I am not surprised that this is the problem that Biggs identified. I’ve long suspected it.

Fields is a big play hunter. Time after time with the game on the line he’s been holding the ball and holding the ball and holding the ball, apparently waiting for guys to get open downfield so that he can gain all the yardage he needs at once. Eventually he gets sacked by defensive linemen who know he has to pass and can just rush the passer or he throws the ball into the coverage. This is not the way to handle a two minute situation.

What worries me isn’t that the Fields is doing this. He’s a young quarterback and you would expect him to make mistakes.

What worries me is that I am 99% sure that the coaching staff has told him not to do this. It’s far too obvious that there’s plenty of time left on the clock and Fields should be hitting these underneath routes. This is not brain surgery and there’s no way that any coach, much less one that has worked with Aaron Rodgers like offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has, hasn’t noticed this and hasn’t tried to pointed it out to him on film.

So I’m left to wonder. Why has Fields not been listening to advice on this topic? Is it just impatience? Could it be that he doesn’t trust the players around him to execute a long drive correctly?

I don’t know. But I will tell you this. Assuming that common sense is prevailing and he’s getting the right messages from the coaching staff (and admittedly I am assuming that) if he wants to be a Brady or a Peyton Manning, he’s going to have to take coaching.

Quick Game Comments: Packers at Bears 12/4/22


  • Larry Borom is out hurt so Riley Reiff was the starting right tackle. He’s not known as a good run blocker in a game that was always going to be about running the ball against the Packers, who are among the worst in the league in run defense.
  • And that’s exactly what the plan was. Run (155 yards on 25 carries) and then pass off of play action (20 for 25 for 253 yards). Probably the only big surprise was that Fields was a significant part of the running game (6 carries for 71). There were several designed runs early in the game and Fields had a wonderful 56 yard run for a touchdown in the first quarter. Notably that all tailed off after the first quarter and you wander if Fields was starting to feel the shoulder injury.
  • The Packers generally did a good job against the run when you take Fields out of the equation (19 carries for 84 yards). David Montgomery did his usual good job of breaking tackles (14 carries for 61 yards). But unlike most teams the Packers play, I think they had zero respect for the Bears passing game and so were able to control the line of scrimmage concentrate on crashing against the run.
  • Somewhat surprisingly Khari Blasingame was inactive. They always seem to run the ball better when the full back is on the field.
  • It was roughly halfway through the second quarter before Chase Claypool got his first target. Claypool was targeted two more times in a row before he was injured while fumbling the ball on a pass over the middle. His final stat line was 5 catches for 28 yards. The talent looks to me like its there but Bears aren’t getting enough out of him yet.
  • It wasn’t an aspect that anyone was emphasizing but Equanimeous St. Brown had a good revenge game against his former team (3 catches for 85 yards). That included a 56 yard pass to set up the second Bears touchdown.
  • Teven Jenkins didn’t have a great game. He had a damaging holding call against him and he looked bad on some blocks. I’m wondering if that’s not going to be looked at closely during the bye week.


  • Both starting safeties (Eddie Jackson & Jaquan Brisker) and two of the three starting cornerbacks (Kyler Gordon & Kindle Vildor) didn’t lay due to injury. Jaylon Jones started at cornerback opposite Jaylon Johnson. It looked like Elijah Hicks and Josh Blackwell were playing the nickel and DeAndre Houston-Carson and A.J. Thomas were at the two safety spots. Probably the worst defensive backfield in the league in week 13.
  • The Bears have been putting Jaylon Johnson on the best receiver on the opposite posing team. I’ve noticed that pretty much everyone likes the matchup. They went right at him covering Christian Watson today despite the other opportunities that the injuries in the defensive backfield presented.
  • Once again, the Bears had a difficult time stopping the run (175 yards on 32 carries). They just look like they have a difficult time getting off of blocks.
  • The Packers also initially relied upon the short passing game. They threw some well-timed screens. All in all the initial plan seemed to be to just executed and work their way down the field.
  • It was a surprising initial game plan. Wouldn’t you just attack that young and injured secondary? Eventually the answer was “yes” as they started attacking deep more later in the first half. Somewhat surprisingly, they struggled to complete many of those homerun passes in part because the Bears were playing a deep shell in coverage. But talent eventually won out in spots but it wasn’t a disaster for the Bears (18 for 31 for 182 yards).
  • The Bears defensive line had a difficult time getting pressure on Aaron Rodgers. No great surprise there given past performance. Not being a great blitzing team anyway, they could afford to blitz even less than usual with all of the injuries to the secondary.
  • Rodgers definitely doesn’t look right and some of his passes were still uncharacteristically off target. But there were fewer of them and he did look better today than he has in other recent games.
  • The Bears held Green bay to 6 for 13 on third down and 1 for 2 on fourth down. They had some big stops.


  • Velus Jones was your kick returner. He held on to the ball and had at least one nice return near the end of the ball game. Perhaps he’s recovered from his early difficulties. Trestan Ebner took one kickoff after the Packers first touchdown just before halftime. Stats
  • Cairo Santos has been struggling. He missed an extra point today and a short field goal that was low. Some of his other kicks have really looked shaky. This is something that we’re going to have to keep an eye on in the future.
  • The Bears won the toss but for some reason elected to receive. It looked to me like it backfired. The Packers drove for their first touchdown to end the half. They then got the ball back to start the second-half. That’s what teams want when they win the toss. It’s not what you want to allow them to do when you when the toss.
  • Both teams were clean in the first half with no penalties. Unfortunately the Bears couldn’t hold to that committing 5 penalties for 63 yards in the second half.
  • Justin Fields had two interceptions including a devastating one with 3 minutes left in the game with the Bears down one point. The Packers had no turnovers.
  • Despite the fact that I think pretty much everyone expected this loss, I still found it to be disappointing.The Bears once again committed more penalties and had more turnovers than their opponent. The Santos misses weren’t the difference in the ball game but they hurt and made the job more difficult. It just seems like the Bears aren’t getting the most out of what little talent that they have.

    I suppose the good news for many fans is that the Bears maintained their place in the draft order. There’s the development and performance of individual players but that’s pretty much all there is to watch in terms of team play.

    Personally, I never root for losses. My thought is that good organizations will make the most of their draft picks no matter where they are and will find a way to succeed. And losing can become a habit. You want your players to learn. You don’t want them to learn to lose.