Points of View 10/5/23

“Is there a way Justin Fields solidifies himself as the starter for next year if the Bears get out of the first overall pick but the Panthers deliver the No. 1 pick to the Bears? — @tylernipper2792

“Personally, I don’t believe so. I think the window has closed on Fields as the team’s starting quarterback in 2024. For something to change, it would require a dramatic series of events. Fields would have to get red hot after what everyone acknowledges was his best game as a passer in the NFL last Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Something very unfortunate would have to happen to USC quarterback Caleb Williams, and the other quarterbacks who are currently highly touted for April draft would have to falter. Yes, there is a lot of football remaining for the Bears with 13 games beginning with Thursday night’s game at FedEx Field against the Washington Commanders, but this offense is in a very deep hole with Fields and I find it difficult to believe that is going to change. He’s had too many struggles for too long for me to believe it’s all going to turn in the second month of Year 3. If it does, that will be one hell of a story to watch unfold.”

As I have stated many times in the past, Biggs has been around a long time and I think he’s someone worth listening to. If he’s coming out now after week 4 and digging a grave for Fields on the record and in print, that’s bad news for those who hope he can still turn this around to be a long-term starter.

Its notable that quotes from GM Ryan Poles before and after the draft indicated that the decision not to draft a quarterback was made strictly in terms of whether he liked any of the guys available better than they guy they had. The quarterback class of 2023 wasn’t thought to be that strong, though one or two like CJ Stroud might be on their way to proving that to be wrong. As Biggs points out, the class of 2024 is a different story altogether.

  • Biggs continues:

“Has the play of Cody Whitehair really dropped off? I’ve noticed that he’s been pushed back on several big plays this year. I understand he focused on center all offseason but left guard is his natural position and the angles/technique should not be that foreign to him. — Olaf S., Memphis, Tenn.

“It’s fair to say Whitehair has passed his prime and he’s been a dependable player for the Bears for a long time. He’s in his eighth season and has made 111 starts and has rarely missed time. In five of his previous seven seasons, he started every game. He’s also had the ability to move around and start at all three interior positions. I’m not sure that was always the best thing for Whitehair, but the team obviously felt it was best for the line. I’d agree he is struggling with power this season. Whitehair has one more season remaining on his contract at $10.25 million, so there is a chance this is his final season with the Bears. I will be curious if the coaches find a way to get Ja’Tyre Carter on the field moving forward. He looked decent in two starts but more playing time will be required to get a good evaluation of him when considering future plans in the trenches.

Another surprise from Biggs. I’m not a journalist but I’d imagine calling Whitehair “past his prime” wouldn’t make him popular in the locker room, however true it might be.

I’m not as down on Whitehair as Biggs is. He has struggled with power at guard but that might not be true if he’s at center where linemen tend to be just a little smaller and where he’s more likely to get help.

I think when the season started the Bears envisioned a powerful interior with Nate Davis and Teven Jenkins at guard and Whitehair at center, where the problems he’s having now might now be so apparent. We may get to see whether that is the correct assessment soon with Jenkins on his way to being off IR and into playing shape.

  • Another one from Biggs:

“When does the goal of the season switch from winning to guaranteeing first overall pick? — @jedikhan10

“You’re not going to find a single member of the coaching staff who will acknowledge that as something that benefits them in any way. They are desperate to end this losing streak with a victory and then try to build a little momentum. Similarly, you will not find a single player in the locker room who is interested in talking about the team’s draft pick status. They don’t grind it out in practice and meetings all week to go out and tank. That’s a stumbling block when you talk about teams trying to line up for the top overall pick. You think Lovie Smith cared about losing in the season finale for the Houston Texans last season at Indianapolis? He’d lose credibility with the players in his locker room if he wasn’t committed to winning that game. I understand the fascination with the idea but coaches and players are not wired that way.”

No question. But I think, or at least I hope, that what the fan wanted to know was when would the front office switch from acting in terms of the present season to acting for the future. In other words, will we see another sell of of what talent the Bears have to draft more.

Personally, I doubt that this will happen at all. With the notable exception of Yannick Ngakoue, the veterans that the Bears signed are part of their future. The same is true of the younger players, of course.

Perhaps the Bears will consider a trade for Jaylon Johnson at some point. But as noted here by Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic, Johnson’s injury history could put some teams off and he doesn’t’ have great ball production.

Johnson is in the last year of his contract and he’s another talented player who might not the kind of make up that the Bears typically like. Not showing up for voluntary work in the offseason didn’t help. The excuse that he wanted to spend more time with his daughter isn’t going to fly anywhere in the NFL. Other guys on the team have children. They showed. He didn’t. That’s going to have been noted and not just by the Bears. How much it matters probably depends on the team but it did nothing to help his value.

  • Fishbain was also answering questions today:

“How are Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, the two big LB signings, looking? Does the lack of any competence along the DL muddy that assessment? — Matthew M.

This was something I explored last week asking the question: Where are the impact plays? Coaches and players said they’re close.”

“Going against a young quarterback in Sam Howell, maybe Edmunds can have some opportunities in the passing lane Thursday night. That’s where the Bears expected to see returns — he averaged seven passes defensed in his five seasons in Buffalo — and in helping take the ball away. They have created only two turnovers this season, tied for 28th in the NFL.

Edwards is someone to keep an eye on. It looked to me like both he and Jack Sanborn were being targeted by the Broncos in a variety of ways. Fishbain’s statistics aside, I didn’t think that Edwards looked too good in pass coverage. I think that the only reason he wasn ‘t exposed more was because attacking Sanborn was the better option.

Injury report

“The Bears again will be without [Jaylon]Johnson (hamstring) and safety Eddie Jackson (foot). Second-year safety Jaquan Brisker was listed as questionable after he was limited in practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury.”

I think its fair to wonder if the Bears won’t err on the side of safety with these players coming off of a short week. In addition, if they don’t play, they essentially get two weeks of rest. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

One Final Thought

You will be hard pressed to find any beat writer in town picking the Bears this week. For the most part I expect its the same nationally. Certainly I haven’t found many.

But that’s good news. When all of the journalists agree you can depend upon it. They will all be wrong.

On the other hand the Bears rarely perform in prime time where they torture not just their own fan base by subjecting them to embarrassingly poor play, but the rest of the country as well. Usually I end up texting friends in other cities to apologize before taking a long shower. This time I might just get it over with and do it in advance.

Despite my reservations I’m with the writers. Let’s hope we’re all wrong.

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