Chances that Bagent Shows that He Can Compete for the Starting Job Are Not Great This Week

Brad Biggs at the Chicago tribune answers your questions.

“What will Tyson Bagent have to do to keep the starting job when Justin Fields is healthy? — Dan B., Roselle

“A handful of versions of this question appeared in the mailbag this week. My first reaction is we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Bagent has one solid start to his credit and wasn’t asked or forced to do a whole lot as the Bears relied on a quick passing game and a dominant running game.”

“A likely best-case scenario for Bagent is he plays well and Fields’ dislocated right thumb needs a little more time to heal and he gets another start the following week in New Orleans. If Bagent can string together three strong starts — and that’s an IF considering the history of this offense — then the Bears probably have a discussion, especially entering a short week with a Thursday game at Soldier Field on Nov. 9 against the Panthers.

“Never say never, but I still envision the Bears turning back to Fields when he’s healthy. But they have to play the games, and the results will give us a much better clue.”

A couple thoughts here.

  1. I tend to agree with Biggs but I look at this from the other side. This season is all about Fields and how well he plays.

The Bears have made a major investment in Fields. They have to know what they have in him by the end of the year. Unless he misses a lot of time, I think that they can reasonably conclude that whatever he is at the end of the year, that’s who he is and their decisions can flow from that.

But that’s if he plays. If he doesn’t, then that’s less data that they have to go on and it makes their decision making process murkier.

  1. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Bears may struggle this Sunday and Bagent will naturally struggle with them. Again from Biggs:

“Where have other teams found success going against the Chargers this year? I am surprised that they only have as many wins — two — as the Bears. — @ajlight315

“The Chargers’ 2-4 start is certainly a little surprising, and coach Brandon Staley said they needed to ‘reset’ after Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. They have been particularly terrible defending the pass. They are 32nd in the league in both passing yards allowed per game (310) and yards allowed per pass attempt (8.09). Opponents have a 105.6 passer rating, which ranks 31st, ahead of only the Broncos (114.2).

“While the Chargers have a formidable pass rush led by former Bear Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, they have allowed big plays galore. That makes it interesting to see what kind of game plan offensive coordinator Luke Getsy hatches this week with undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent making his second career start. How much will Getsy ask Bagent to do knowing the Chargers have ongoing issues on defense?

The Chargers are better than their 2-4 record indicates. Three of their four losses were to the Dolphins, Cowboys and Chiefs. Those are good teams and the Vikings, who are the other team to beat them, are also better than their record.

The Chargers are a bad match up for the Bears. They present blurry looks on defense that can confuse even veteran quarterbacks.

The spread the last I checked was Chargers -9. I think that gives you a clue as to how this is going to go.

The Bears will be better off playing Fields and keeping Bagent on the bench. The time spent there will be good for Bagent’s development and the Bears have plenty of time in the future to spend with him. There’s no hurry.

Quick Game Comments: Raiders at Bears 10/22/23


  • D’Onta Foreman dropped a third and long dump off in the first half and it occurs to me that maybe that’s why the Bears don’t like playing him as much as you might think they would. He might not be a good pass receiver and he doesn’t play special teams.
  • Bagent is far and away most comfortable throwing to Tyler Scott. I would guess they spent a lot of time on the field together in camp. Whenever Bagent got in trouble it looked like he looked Scott’s way.
  • Bears really ran the ball well. Foreman is a very good downhill runner and he seemed fired up. The Bears ran for 4.6 yards per carry.
  • On a related note the offensive line blocking was superb for the most part. With the exception of Maxx Crosby the Raiders were having a hard time getting off of blocks.
  • Bagent was definitely helped out by the good running game. It helped the Bears keep the Raiders pass rush under control. Bagent is also reasonably mobile which made him hard to track down.
  • Also credit to Bagent for acting out those run fakes. It bothers me that so many quarterbacks don’t get anywhere near the running backs on those. He helps everyone out when he acts those out well.
  • Most importantly Bagent looked like he belonged out there. He was cool under pressure. Didn’t make many mistakes. He looked competent.
  • On the down side, Bagent is not the most accurate quarterback and he often made passes harder to catch than they should have been. He also always rolls to his right. Teams are gong to start game planning around that.
  • Color man Mark Sanchez also did a good job of pointing out that Bagent doesn’t like to step up into the pocket. He will abandon it, often to the right, instead. Sanchez called him “jumpy” in the pocket. I think he’s right.
  • The Bears were 8 for 13 on third down. That’s Excellent.


  • Credit to the Bears defensive line. They did a good job at the line of scrimmage. There wasn’t much room to run for the Raiders. I think it say s something that the Raiders came out in the second half determined to run the ball. They recognized that the Bears were shutting them down and it was stifling their offense.
  • Brian Hoyer’s timing with his receivers was a bit off today. He was fairly consistently behind his receivers.
  • Tyreek Stevenson might have a bad reputation with the referees. He’s getting some tough calls. The pass interference in the second quarter wasn’t much and its not the first time this year I thought that the referees were being a bit tough on him.
  • The Raiders evidently really liked the match up of Devante Adam on Tyreek Stevenson. They fed him the ball four times in 6 plays constantly on their first possession. They completed three of them. They weren’t quite as aggressive with it later but the Bears were rotating coverage his way pretty often.
  • The Raiders were 2 for 9 on third down. That’s pretty good for an improving Bears defense.


  • Credit to the coaching staff. The Bears looked ready to play today.
  • The Bears elected to receive but what they did with it was puzzling to me. Why take the ball is your first pass is going to be a wide receiver screen and your second play is going to be a run. Aggressively taking the ball first and then calling conservative plays doesn’t jibe with me.
  • Similarly, I had a bit of a problem with the way that the Bears handled the clock at the end of the first half. They let the clock wind down rather than taking their time outs. I see where they were coming from. They were starting deep in their own half, and they didn’t want to hand the ball back to the Raiders with decent field position and any time left on the clock. That’s fine, but the play calling didn’t match the plan. It was reasonably aggressive and, even more, it paid off. The Bears made their way to almost to mid-field before the drive stalled. They may have done better with it and they had a bit more time. It was a very weird confluence of time management, and play calling that I didn’t understand.
  • Too many Bears penalties in this game. There were 9 for 110 yards, some of them in critical situations. They would have hurt them against a better team.
  • Tremaine Edmunds had his 2nd interception in 2 weeks. Notably Yannick Ngakoue got into the path of the pass with his hands up and helped disrupt the receiver’s concentration. Two interceptions by Jaylon Johnson in the fourth quarter, one for a touchdown, were also very helpful in putting the game away.
  • Devante Adams drop in the end zone about 3 minutes into the 4th quarter was a huge play in this game. A touchdown there puts the Raiders two scores down. To my great surprise the Raiders took a field goal rather than going for the touchdown on fourth down. Absent a bunch of major mistakes by the Bears, that drive was the game.

One Voice at a Time for the Bears. And Other Points of View.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune has 10 thoughts after the Bears loss to the Vikings on Sunday.

“On the first snap Sunday, the Vikings showed six men at the line of scrimmage. The Bears were in an empty formation with quarterback Justin Fields in the shotgun. Outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum came off the offense’s left edge unblocked. Left tackle Larry Borom was turned inside, engaged with a blocker. That left Wonnum with a free run at Fields and a blindside sack for a 7-yard loss.

“That set the tone for the Vikings immediately.”

I wrote basically the same thing on my note pad when it happened.

Head coach Matt Eberflus later acknowledged that Fields was responsible for Wonnum. He was supposed to get rid of the ball with the free blitzer coming. He didn’t.

Like so many things about the game Sunday, this was very predictable. Its happened over and over again to Fields against teams that blitz far less than the Vikings do. Field had to anticipate the possibility that free guy might come off the edge and be prepared for it. He didn’t.

I knew before the game even started that this was going to happen and I’m not a football genius by any stretch. Either the coaches didn’t prepare Fields for it or he just can’t execute the plan. I’m betting the latter but either way this is a bad, bad sign.

  • Biggs takes pains to make sure that all of the burden of the poor offensive play doesn’t fall on Fields. Here he quotes tight end Cole Kmet.

“Kmet said: ‘I’ve got to take a look at the film, honestly. A lot of things we saw on tape, I think we saw on the field. It just comes down to our execution. It has to be better.’

“Like what?

“‘Everything,’ Kmet said. ‘Timing. Guys knowing who to go to. Depth on routes. Everything. We can be better up front. I was really involved today in the protection schemes. Guys coming off the edge, have to pick up there, chipping guys, whatever it is. We’ve just got to be better all around.

“‘So that’s communication on the line, making sure everyone knows who we’re going to. Knowing who our hots are. Guys getting open. All that stuff. It was a conglomerate of things but definitely have to take a look at the film.'”

When you ask someone what went wrong and the answer is “Everything” you know what the issue is. Its not talent. Its not individual players breaking down here and there where you can put it on individuals in key situations.

Its preparation and coaching.

The Bears knew what was coming just as five other teams knew what was coming when the Vikings played the games before the Bears. They were 1-4 and thought to have among the worst defenses in the league. The Bears just didn’t execute on a massive scale and failed where other teams have consistently succeeded. You don’t have to know the nitty gritty specifics to know that’s a coaching problem.

“So much of the 2023 season has been about evaluating Fields. It was supposed to be easier than in 2022 when he had the worst roster in football around him. Injuries up front and in the backfield, a receiver who got traded and an in-season changeup to how the offense looks have robbed him of that stability.

“He also hasn’t been consistent, with two great games and four that have been well below average, and now is dealing with an injury. If he can return after missing only one game, he’ll be on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers and their fifth-highest sack rate, and then on the road in the Superdome against the New Orleans Saints, a defense fifth in the league in interception rate.

I completely agree with this.

Fields injury is really problematic for the Bears. With all of the talk about losing and having high draft picks again in the 2024 draft, its important to not lose sight of the fact that this is season is mostly about evaluating Fields in his third and most critical year. The Bears have to know what they have in Fields before this season is over.

So far I can’t say that I’m optimistic about the chances that Fields is going to be the franchise quarterback that the Bears have been searching for. But its sill too early to tell definitely. The Bears need to see more. They need to see what they can get out of Fields with his limited field vision and whether that will eventually be enough with all of his other talents.

Fields is who he is now. But no one is perfect and even mediocre quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. And he has his strengths.

Could Fields get to the point where he recognizes pre-snap looks better? Could the Bears design an offense that limits Fields need to make every read and improve his decision making on those he makes? Will he be good enough to make the Bears competitive?

We just don’t know the answer to that and we won’t know unless both Fields and the team have a chance to further adjust to the current situation. Here’s hoping Fields makes a quick recovery.

One Final Thought

Biggs was also answering your questions this week:

“Where is Kevin Warren? Wasn’t he hired for this exact reason? Once again, the Bears’ total incompetence from the top down is an embarrassment to the fan base. — @heapbig

“What would you propose Warren do right now? It would be great if he could rush the quarterback or fill one of the holes created by injuries on the offensive line. But he was a basketball player in college.

“I’m pretty certain Warren’s No. 1 order of business is the new stadium initiative, which seems sort of stalled months after the team finalized its purchase of the land in Arlington Heights. Warren is overseeing all aspects of the organization. He has been at the road games. He’s prominent at Soldier Field on game days. I’d bet good money he’s as disappointed as you are with the 1-5 record.

“Maybe you would like to hear Warren publicly say he’s not happy with the team’s struggles through the first six games. Perhaps that would make you feel like he’s on your side and devoted to cleaning things up. Would that really make a difference, though? That might send a message to potential future hires that the Bears have an overbearing president/CEO who doesn’t have a background in football personnel. Would that help the Bears the next time they are seeking to fill a key position?”

I couldn’t agree more with this. With both Biggs and the Bears.

I haven’t said it recently because the Bears have done exactly what I would have over the past 10 years or more but there was a time when I was constantly harping on the fact that Bears general managers, mostly Jerry Angelo, had a bad habit of popping up with comments mid-season.

If I’m running the Bears I want the players hearing one voice and one voice only and that’s the head coach. This is his time and he’s in charge. They don’t need to be confused by messages coming from the front office.

The time for upper management to speak is when the season is over and high level decisions need to be made in the month of January. Once that is done its up to the GM until the season starts again.

One organization. One voice at a time. One message. No confusion.

Short Thoughts on the Vikings – Bears Game

Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune once again provides the quote to start this series of short post-game Bears comments.

“[Bears quarterback Justin] Fields completed 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a 36.7 passer rating. He was sacked four times. The Bears had minus-3 passing yards following their first three drives before Fields connected with Darnell Mooney for a 39-yard pass. The Bears had a chance to take the lead late in the second quarter, but [Danielle] Hunter got in Fields’ face on a pass, and Jordan Hicks intercepted him.

“Wide receiver DJ Moore, who had 230 receiving yards against the Commanders, was targeted twice in the first half, with one 7-yard catch. Moore said at one point the Vikings had three players on him.

“‘All the different looks, all the pressures and everything that was coming at us,’ Moore said. ‘It’s hard when you go out there and think they’re going to do one thing and they do a whole multitude of things that they either put in or just had something to beat our play call with.'”

These three paragraphs summarize in part why this was such a terrible match up for the Bears and especially for Fields. Take a quarterback who struggles to see the field and combine that with a defense that specializes in pressure and mixing coverages and you’ve got a very bad combination.

Moore talks about sometimes having three men on him. And there’s a reason for that. Minnesota defensive coordinator Brian Flores is from the Bill Belichick school of defense. You take away what the other guys does best and you make him beat you with something else. Moore is what the Bears offense does best. Combine the double and triple coverage with the fact that Fields hasn’t shown that he can consistently complete a pass to anyone not maned Moore or Kmet, and you’ve got a problem.

Kane highlights Mooney’s 39 yard completion. But as far as I could tell, it was the only time that Fields found Mooney all day.

But it gets worse than that. Though Moore was covered by multiple players much of the time there were also plays where he was left in single coverage and was wide open. Fields never saw his. As far as I can tell, he never even looked his way.

Contrast that with what Tyson Bagent said about the interception that effectively ended the game. Via Dan Wiederer.

“That shot play seemed to be setting up so nicely, too. First down from the Vikings 35-yard line.

“‘DJ Moore. One of the best receivers in the world. One-on-one,’ Bagent said.

“So the rookie shot his shot. He just couldn’t get enough on it. Because of course.

“‘That’s on me,’ Bagent said. ‘I’ve got to fix it going forward.'”

He does. But at this point, the thing to notice is that he found Moore in single coverage and tried to feed him the ball. Would Fields have done the same? I really have my doubts given what he had shown up to the point where he hurt his hand.

That’s probably why Bagent intrigues the Bears. Whatever they think his ceiling is – and its really hard to tell right now what they think – he sees the Field in a way that, with all of his talent in other areas, Fields doesn’t.

  • It will be interesting to see who the Bears start next week if Fields can’t go. Its true that the Bears have kept Bagent on the roster while shuttling Nathan Peterman back and forth onto and off of the roster. But that’s probably got more to do with the fact that the Bears think that they can get Peterman through waivers whereas they don’t know if they can get a younger quarterback with potential through in the same way.

In a start, the Bears may consider veteran Peterman to be the better bet over the developing Bagent who might not be ready yet. We’ll see.

  • Though we didn’t see it as much as I thought that we would, Fields did have a decent day running the ball against man coverage (8 rushes for 48 yards). What was interesting is that Flores pulled from the Chiefs game to decide to crowd the line of scrimmage to limit Fields. Its worked and it forced Bears wide receivers not named Moore to get open.

  • Again, I have to say how much I love D’Onta Foreman. The guy’s a slasher who runs straight at good angles and hits the hole hard. The Bears must think he’s limited in how they can use him and I thought it was interesting that Darrynton Evans got the first carry of the game. But Foreman is a force when he’s on the field and the Bears are going nowhere without a decent running game.

On a related note, I continue to be impressed by the variety of runs that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy calls. He attacks from all sorts of angles to all sorts of spots along the line and to the outside.

  • Similarly, I thought that this was Matt Eberflus‘s best game. The Bears surprised the Vikings by bring an extra guy from different angles and got pressure for much of the game. It was a good defensive effort.

Special mention to TJ Edwards. I’ve been pretty critical of Edwards in coverage but this was a good game for him. He was all over the field around the ball and notably he supplied the pressure that resulted in the Tremaine Edmunds interception.

  • Note that I don’t intend to do these short comments the next morning after most games and will usually do the quick comments immediately after the game instead. But I’m doing it here because I spent a great deal of this game with one eye on the France-South Africa quarterfinal in the Rugby World Cup. Quick, off the cuff observations tend to be farther off than usual when that happens.

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.

Short Thoughts on the Bears-Commanders Game

Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune quotes Cole Kmet to kick me off on some thoughts that I have about the Bears 40-20 win over the Commanders Thursday night.

“’Huge,” Kmet said. ‘[Justin Fields] doesn’t have to put it all on his back either. We’ve got guys. We’ve got DJ [Moore], myself, [Darnell Mooney], Khalil [Herbert]. We’ve got dudes that can seal the deal. I think he’s just gaining confidence in everybody and then obviously the scheme in place as well.'”

Yes, that’s my first take away from the first half of both this game and the last game against the Broncos. Between Fields’ mobility, Moore, Kmet and a decent running game, the Bears have some threats that opposing defenses are going to have to deal with.

  • And let’s’ not forget what a nice job Luke Getsy has done.

Take the Broncos game and put on the tape and you start to see plays with multiple running backs. But against the Commanders you rarely saw that look. That’s just one obvious example of the many varied ways that Getsy is finding to attack defenses.

The running game has been varied and there’s been some success. Take for example, what Getsy had them doing to get Fields more room to run on the edges. Naked boots? They’re still there. But every once is a while Getsy had them pulling linemen, wiping out the end setting the edge and powering around the end with Fields behind them. That was something that we hadn’t seen before last night and it worked well.

The Bears are very difficult to prepare for right now.

  • I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to note that the Bears were frequently facing third down and long and went to the ground game to get the third down. Herbert had a lot of success picking these up before he left the game. It was an interesting wrinkle.

  • What’s going to be interesting is to see what opposing defenses are going to do about it in the upcoming contests for the Bears.

I think that the first priority for now is disrupting the Fields-Moore connection. Fields is also connecting with his tight ends and that needs to be considered. But Moore is the crutch that Fields is leaning on right now. Moore is the guy that you have to stop.

After that, your priority is stopping Fields from running. Because of that, I think most teams will still continue to try to run primarily zone defenses. And that still might be possible.

Fields has looked extremely comfortable at times back there and if I’m an opposing defensive coordinator, I’m going to want to prevent that as much as possible. Fields tore up the Broncos and Commanders defensive back field. But it looked to me like both teams gave him bland, straight forward looks. So I think we can anticipate defenses putting more effort into disguising and mixing up coverages. We’ll probably start to see more late movement from defensive backs. And whatever opponents do, they’re going to have to start rotating coverages more toward Moore.

If Fields can keep up with the coverages, I’d anticipate that he’ll see more opportunities to throw to his other receivers, particularly Mooney.

But that’s a big if. And so far he’s struggled to get his timing right with Mooney. I’m not sure he trusts the other receivers on the team and its affecting both his timing and his accuracy. Fields is eventually going to have to start connecting with wide receivers not named DJ Moore.

  • This also bring up another little piece of speculation. If the above doesn’t work, teams will undoubtedly start challenging the Bears receivers by mixing in more man coverage. This is dangerous because it turns Fields loose. But you could argue that is preferable to the big plays that Moore is making.

Fields ran plenty last year. The Bears didn’t win many games. You could argue that you just let him have his yardage and cover all the rest of the bases.

Man coverage could be a real challenge for the receivers. Moore will be flat out double teamed. Can the others step up to make plays? We might eventually see if that is the case.

Its all fascinating to me.

  • Kudos to the linemen on both sides of the ball. The above is nice to think about but the game is still played at the line of scrimmage. Both sides did a good job, especially the Bears offensive line against a fearsome Commanders defensive front.

One guy who isn’t getting mentioned much is swing tackle Larry Borom, who has stepped in to replace the injured Braxton Jones and to my eye done a pretty nice job. I never thought Borom was a bad tackle and I was genuinely surprised to see the Bears seeking an upgrade over him at right tackle. The only think I can figure is that he just didn’t fit with what they are trying to do in an ideal way.

In any case, Borom is nice replacement to have on your bench.

  • One other thing that has to be said. I’ve personally pounded the Bears for not having their players ready to play. I thought tonight they definitely were against a team that definitely wasn’t. The Commanders were flat as a pancake and that was made even more evident when they were contrasted with a Bears team that looked on point, enthusiastic and ready to go on a short week.

Getsy put in a lot plays I haven’t seen this year and the Bears offense executed them very well.

I killed the Bears defensive backs for broken coverages, stating that even though they are back ups, they are still professionals who should be getting the most out of their ability. Well, kudos to them and the coaching staff this week. They looked prepared and ready to go when this game started.

  • In contrast, this short post from Michael David Smith at caught my eye.

“‘It starts at the top. We’ve got to do better and that’s on me,’ [Commanders head coach Ron] Rivera said.

“Rivera said he won’t know specifically what needs to be improved until he watches the tape.

“‘We’ll see,’ Rivera said. ‘I’m not going to sit up here and talk about those things until we get an opportunity to break the tape down, go through the tape, sit down and talk about the tape as a staff, and go from there.’

“The Commanders are now 2-3 on the season, and if Rivera doesn’t figure out what’s going wrong and fix it soon, his seat is going to be very hot.”

Yep. Rivera is dealing with an owner who didn’t hire him. That’s not a good situation. He had to start winning this year.

Rivera’s team did not look ready to play this game. That’s on him and his staff.

His biggest issue is that he’s got a young quarterback who is learning. I like Sam Howell and I respect Rivera’s decision to roll with him this year. Howell was not afraid to keep slinging the ball after some bad mistakes Thursday night. But he needs to grow up fast to save Rivera’s job, I think. We’ll see how they are playing at the end of the year. They’ve already played some good ball. They’re just inconsistent.

  • One more thing. I’ve stated many times that the rubber meets the road with Fields when the clock is winding down with less than 2 minutes left and he has to pass to win. We haven’t seen him do that yet. So if you are getting on board the Fields train, I’d wait if I were you.

This is something that Fields has to show that he can do before this season ends.

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.

Sometimes You Don’t Need to Be an Expert to See that “Something Isn’t Right”

A long time ago I was in a situation where I was working in a departmental office where my boss’s boss’s boss happened to have his door right down the hall from where we worked. Occasionally, because his door was right there, he could hear the chatting out in the hall. And every once in a while he’d wander through with this thoughtful look on his face.

He was so far removed from the specific day to day running of the office that he really couldn’t judge exactly what was going on but eventually he was heard to say that he could just tell that something wasn’t right about the way that the office was being run. Changes were eventually made.

This came to mind as I ready this comment from Adam Jahns at The Athletic on Monday.

“At 3:32 p.m. Sunday, Chicago Bears team president Kevin Warren cut through his team’s locker room inside Soldier Field.

“There were more media members than players in it.

“But quarterback Justin Fields was still there.

“His uniform and pads were still on.

“Wide receiver Chase Claypool had a locker with his nameplate on it, too.

“Warren walked past that empty stall as well.

” With the game book of the Bears’ devastating 31-28 loss in his right hand, Warren exited the locker room, jumped on a cart with team security and was gone.

“You have to wonder what he’s thinking about the team he’s in charge of right now.”

You do, indeed. But, honestly, you don’t have to be a football executive or even anyone particularly close to the day-to-day operations of the team to know that “something isn’t right”.

The thoughts of Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune parallel my own.

“[Former Bears head coach Marc] Trestman’s last team finished 5-11. This Bears team is 0-4 and has lost 14 consecutive games dating to the last win on Oct. 24, 2022, at New England. To reach five victories this season, the Bears would have to become a lot more competitive and do so quickly. Does anyone see a path to five wins in the remaining 13 games? The 2014 Bears are the franchise leaders for dysfunction in the last three decades, but this group is on a path to the most futility and the Claypool incident sure makes the mind wander back to nine years ago.

As Biggs acknowledges, the Trestman situation was much worse. He was trying to handle some truly difficult personalities like Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett. But still when Biggs elaborates on the comments from head coach Matt Eberflus on the status of what wide receiver Chase Claypool after the game Sunday, it isn’t hard to figure out why thoughts are starting to wander that way.

“Eberflus said the decision to sit Claypool and play Equanimeous St. Brown (41 snaps by my unofficial count) had nothing to do with his media comments Friday. OK, then what?

“‘When you look at actives or inactives every single week, what we do is we obviously evaluate meetings,’ Eberflus said. ‘We evaluate walk-throughs. We evaluate practice, and we do that every single week and then we declare actives or inactives based on that. And this week, Claypool was inactive.'”

“The situation got messier after the game when Eberflus indicated Claypool had the option to attend the game — which all inactive players do — or remain home, an unusual step.

“‘We told him that it was a choice,’ Eberflus said. ‘And he’s at home right now.'”

“Later, a club official said the team ordered Claypool not to attend the game. Confused yet? What’s really puzzling is Eberflus seemed surprised by some of the questioning when this involves a guy who should be a main cog in the offense.”

Add this to the way that Eberflus and the Bears handled the chaotic events of two weeks ago when quarterback Justin Fields said that coaching played a role in his robotic play and when defensive coordinator Alan Williams abruptly resigned, and a picture starts to emerge. And its not good.

Let’s concentrate on the Claypool incident.

You have to wonder how a head coach can so badly fumble the answer to a simple question that he has to know that he’s going to be asked. I know there’s a lot to think about on game day but surely you have to have thought about the fact that you were going to be asked about Claypool and have planned your answer. Surely you have gotten together with other members of the organization to get your story straight.

At bare minimum somebody associated with the team should have been in Eberflus’ ear before he stepped to the podium to make sure that everything was on point.

Instead we got what you see above. A fumbled answer, followed by a communication from the team that basically indicated that what the head coach plainly said was wrong.

You can try to tell me that these events have nothing to do with the performance of the team. But I will claim, and have always claimed, that this is wrong. Events on and off the field form a whole, connected picture and they are indelibly linked by the common denominator that the same people are involved in both.

This is the situation that Bears fans find themselves in. Most of them are not qualified to judge “scheme” or “play calling” despite the fact that they think they are. But there are many indications that you can look at that draw you to the same conclusion that higher up so long ago did in my own situation.

Something isn’t right about how things are being run. And that, more than anything else, is the Bears problem.

Quick Game Comments: Broncos at Bears

1. Chase Claypool was a healthy scratch today. Feels like the end of the line for him. The guess here is that the Bears weren’t happy when he honestly answered a direct question about whether he was being utilized optionally with a “No.” Its also possible that Claypool requested a trade.
2. I also thought it was interesting that Nathan Peterman was a scratch with Tyson Bagent acting as the back up on the game day roster. I thought it would be the other way around for a while yet. Hopefully Matt Eberflus will be asked after the game what the Bears thinking is.
3. Bears came out and showed a weird Veer-like configuration on the first play. The play was a pass for 9 yards but it set down a marker for the rest of the day. They continued to line up multiple backs in the backfield, especially in the I formation, and using it in the running game. The play action off of it came natural. I loved it.
4. I’m about done with putting Cole Kmet under center for a sneak. I know that teams kind of know what’s coming anyway but there has to be at least some little doubt. This is too much of a give away.
5. I was happy to see Darnell Mooney get two or three targets today. Mooney was the first one there to pick up a teammate or congratulate someone. Contrast with Claypool.
6. Spectacular catch by DJ Moore for the Bears touchdown right at the beginning of the second quarter (even though I agreed with the announcers that he didn’t get two feet down). I don’t think I gave Moore enough credit after the Bears traded for him. Fields looked to him in tough spots all day. He is a wonderful player.
7. Just Fields was like night and day today. He looked much better and much more comfortable with an offense similar to what the Bears ran towards the end of last year with some twists. Lots of outside zone runs and a putrid Denver unit let him easily have the edges of the defense (they did adjust some in the second half). Fields was throwing to some wide open receivers and he also had all day to throw at times. He was throwing with more confidence and he looked different. Let’s hope it lasts.
8. Big day for the tight ends. Kmet had 7 catches for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns. Robert Tonyan did some good work and had 2 catches for 18 yards.
9. The Bears were 6 of 12 o third down which isn’t great. But it was the 1 for 3 on fourth down that killed them.

1. Denver came out prepared to take advantage of mismatches with Matt Eberflus’s defense. They got a tight end on TJ Edwards the way that other teams have so far this year. They went right after Jack Sanborn in multiple ways. The linebackers were supposed to be a strength but there were times when they certainly didn’t look like it.
2. Play action looks to be a huge part of the Broncos offense. It was also working.
3. Sean Payton ran some screens today, including one for the touchdown. I’m guessing that he was anticipating that the Bears would be blitzing to bring pressure. If they were doing a lot more than usual, I didn’t see it.
4. The Bears defense was swarming to the ball today and looked good doing it. They were feeling it.
5. Having said that, my antennae went up when it looked to me like the Bears went into prevent mode in the second half of the third quarter. It felt a little early to be doing that. It gave room to an offense that was struggling and took aggressiveness away from the defense. Sure enough, the Broncos came back.

1. the Bears had 10 penalties for 91 yards including a critical grounding penalty during the 2 minute drive by Fields. That’s too many.
2. That was a gutsy call by Eberflus to go for it on 3rd and a long one with three minutes left. I’d have never done it and I was shaking my head – before they didn’t get it. But I respect it. Good teams should be able to get a yard when they need it. But the Bears aren’t a good team.
3. The Justin Fields fumble was a back breaker. Fields was also having a good day against a bad defense. But it was neither of those upon which he should be judged today. It was with less than two minutes left in a situation where he had to pass. That was when the rubber met the road for him. Last year he failed in this situation time after time. It happened again. And that is perhaps his biggest problem.
4. If the Bears were going to have a get right game on their schedule, this was surely it. This was a bad loss by a bad team to a bad team with a bad defense. That’s a lot of bad.