The Vikings Are a Bad Matchup for Justin Fields. And Other Points of View.

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic [answers your questions]{}:

“Let’s say at the end of the season Fields has stats similar to 2022 Daniel Jones. Good enough where you could see growth/potential but not good enough for a Daniel Jones-sized contract extension. Is there a situation where the Bears decide to keep Fields on the fifth-year option and draft the top QB available in the draft? Or do you think if the Bears go top QB route, Fields’ time in Chicago is done? — Peter B.

“If the Bears take a quarterback in the first round of the 2024 draft, that would likely be it for Fields’ time in Chicago. General manager Ryan Poles will have the opportunity, through Chicago’s pick and/or the Carolina Panthers’, to start over at quarterback. This wouldn’t be an Andy Dalton or Mike Glennon situation of a veteran keeping the seat warm. This would be one presumed franchise quarterback and the next presumed franchise quarterback being on the same team.

I’ll take this a step further and definitely state that, assuming that the Bears have a top pick via their own and/or the Pathners pick, in this situation the Bears would draft a quarterback.

Dan Pompei, also at The Athletic, wrote [a nice long piece]{} about the special quarterbacks coming out of college in 2024 and the opportunity that they might present to the Bears.

“NFL teams don’t have a complete picture of the quarterbacks yet — they won’t until they play the rest of the season and undergo medicals, interviews and combine/pro day testing. But they like almost everything about [Caleb] Williams and [Drake] Maye so far.

“Williams has been considered the more desirable of the two by many, but not all. Based on what is known now, his final pre-draft grades could be in line with what Joe Burrow’s were in 2020, or Trevor Lawrence’s in 2021. His grades could end up as high as Andrew Luck’s, Eli Manning’s, Carson Palmer’s or Peyton Manning’s.

‘”The tape is elite,’ a high-ranking NFC front-office person says. ‘The game seems really slow for him. He can make every throw you’d ever want from the pocket and he can run if he needs to. What he does is rare, and he’s head and shoulders above everyone else.'”

“Maye has played in a more traditional NFL-style system and could have more appeal to evaluators who think of quarterbacks in the traditional sense. At 6-4, 230 (according to North Carolina), Maye is the prototype.

“‘His arm talent is exceptional,’ a college scout says. ‘He has a feel for pressure and a feel for coverage. He was a really good high school basketball player, and he moves like it. He can take off when he needs to.'”

Those who were paying attention to Poles’ comments before the 2023 draft will know that he was very careful with his words when asked about drafting a quarterback with the first overall pick. He said that he wasn’t doing it because he didn’t think any of those available were better than Fields. It sounds like he will almost certainly think differently if Fields puts up mediocre numbers and he has a pick where he could land Williams or Maye.

  • What kind of performance Fields can produce this year may well depend upon [how he does the next five weeks]{}. From Fishbain and Adam Jahns:

“Fishbain: OK, I’m going to be that guy. Fields’ best two games in his career as a passer came against teams in the bottom five in opponent passer rating. Against the Broncos, he lost a fumble, was called for intentional grounding and threw an interception to end the game. Against the Commanders, he completed only 51.7 percent of his passes (granted, there were three throwaways when Fields was under pressure). There are two ways to look at that. On one hand, there’s room to grow. If those are his best games, and he still had a few errors, maybe we have yet to see the best of Fields. Or, do those mistakes still show his limitation, or a ceiling, on what he’s capable of? We could learn more against better defenses, which won’t come for a few weeks. I know this might be nitpicking, but the bar has to be high when you’re talking about a potential franchise quarterback.

“Jahns: The best defense Fields will face over the next five weeks belongs to the New Orleans Saints, who rank first in opposing QB passer rating at 66.1 but 26th in sack percentage at 5.6. Minnesota ranks 30th in opposing quarterback passer rating (110.8), 31st in completion percentage (76.4), 22nd in passing yards per game (240.0), 25th in third-down percentage (43.7) and 27th in yards after catch allowed (517). The Vikings do rank second when it comes to limiting explosive plays, trailing only the San Francisco 49ers. That’s a lot of numbers, but they make Sunday an opportunity for Fields to build more confidence in what he’s doing and becoming in his third NFL season.

“Fishbain: The other thing going for Fields, in addition to the added confidence and comfort he has in the offense, is an improving offensive line. Teven Jenkins is back. Braxton Jones could possibly be back soon. Nate Davis should be rounding into form and Darnell Wright has already put together some impressive highlights. The whole idea around Fields this season was: Let’s see what he can do with a solid offensive line and better weapons. Consistency has eluded Fields throughout his career. He’s got an opportunity to put together a string of impressive performances to give Poles a lot to think about. The question is, can he do enough to make Poles — and others — forget about everything else?”

Fair enough.

The Bears schedule really does look miserable this year. After the next five weeks the toughest teams that the Bears play are the Lions (twice) and the Packers. They also play the surprisingly competent Arizona Cardinals but no one would characterize even them as anything but beatable.

If Fields and the Bears can’t produce a competitive record against this line up, Fields is going to have a difficult time convincing anyone that he’s the guy.

One more thing and I don’t think that it can be emphasized enough. Fields biggest failings have come late in game when the Bears need a score with less than two minutes left. He has to pass in these situations and the results have been miserable over the last two years. A lot will depend upon how he performs in these situations no matter who the opponent is.

One Final Thought

Pompei was one of the few local writers who was [picking against the Bears this week]{}:

“Dan Pompei: Vikings 27, Bears 23

“(3-2, 3-2)

“If Justin Fields plays the way he did against Washington, this should be a win for the Bears. But more frequently, he has played the way he did against the Chiefs. Or Bucs. Or Packers. Or Broncos at the end of the game. The challenge for the Vikings will be to reimagine their offense without their centerpiece [Justin Jefferson], but they still have viable pass catchers in T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn. They also will benefit from opposing the defense that is allowing the second most passing yards per game in the NFL.

Most of the writers in town have indicated that they are worried about Hockenson and rightfully so. the Bears haven’t done a good job of covering tight ends lately, though playing Travis Kelsy will do that.

But if you ask me, Addison, who was drafted by Vikings in the first round, 23rd overall, of the 2023 Draft, is the guy to watch. He’s had the look of a guy who is ready to break out and in the absence of Jefferson, he may just get the targets he needs to do it.

FWIW, this is a bad, bad matchup for the Bears in my opinion. The Vikings blitz as much as any team in the league and Fields hasn’t shown me that he can consistently identify a rusher blitzing from his blind side. Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores specializes in running exotic schemes to try to confuse quarterbacks.

Its true that Flores tends to favor man coverage and Fields should be able to run a ton against the Vikings. But as the Bears showed most of last year, that often doesn’t produce wins.

Flores also carries the Belichickian philosophy of concentrating on taking away your best player. That would be would DJ Moore for the Bears and Fields has yet to show that he can connect with anyone who isn’t Moore or tight end Cole Kmet.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune addressed the situation with Darnell Mooney as he [answered your questions]{} last week:

“Darnell Mooney is playing obviously but he doesn’t look like he is back to pre-injury form. Is he just rusty? — @rradulski

“To the best of my knowledge, Mooney is fully healthy. I think what you’re seeing is he’s in a new role. He’s no longer the No. 1 receiver, and if we’re being honest, he was miscast in that position. He was the Bears’ best receiver before DJ Moore arrived.

“There were two opportunities for explosive plays last week at Washington, and Justin Fields missed him on both. On a deep shot off a play fake on the first play of the game, Mooney had a step and they didn’t connect. On the second possession, Mooney was open on a deep over and Fields was off the mark. If they hit those two plays, you’re looking at 60 yards, maybe more.

“Mooney had seven targets in the season opener and has only nine over the last four games. The passing volume was down in some of those games. I’m pretty certain we will see Mooney making some big plays, especially with defenses intent on not making the mistakes the Commanders did in attempting to cover Moore.

Fields’ timing with Mooney has looked pretty far off and the same was true of Equinimious St. Brown against the Commanders. This week allot will depend upon his ability to time up his connection to Mooney.

It could happen. But it hasn’t happened yet.

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