After 10 days of feeling good about thumping the Washington Commanders, the Bears rolled into Soldier Field on Sunday and looked completely unprepared against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears knew Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores was going to send every blitz in the book at quarterback Justin Fields, and yet, they seemed to have no plan to combat that aggressive style. There were countless miscommunications on the offensive line, few rolled pockets, and the Bears struggled to get the ball to DJ Moore for most of the game.
Meanwhile, Fields suffered a dislocated right thumb in the third quarter of the 19-13 loss and is doubtful to play in Week 7 against the Las Vegas Raiders. There is no timetable for his return.
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Other than that, everything is going great at Halas Hall.
Fields' injury, should it sideline him for weeks or longer, could irrevocably alter the clear rebuild path general manager Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus hoped to have at season's end. There's nearly no chance the Bears will have a full evaluation of Fields at the end of the season, which means their future under center is murky at best. (You know where this is headed.)
Undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent will likely start Sunday in Fields' place, so that's where we will start this week's downer of a mailbag:
Overreaction? Not at all
I wrote Tuesday that Fields' injury gives the Bears a controversy-free way to potentially get an extended look at Bagent.
There will be a learning curve, but the Bears like his quick release, accuracy, and intangibles. The chances that Bagent turns out to be a Brock Purdy-like savior for the Bears are slim, but I do think he's worth a look. A team with complete uncertainty at the quarterback position can't pass up a free roll on a raw prospect who set NCAA records.
Fields has a better chance to be the starter in 2024 than Bagent. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued to see what Bagent can do with a full week to prepare as a starter with a game plan that suits his skills.
Overreaction? A little
There's no reason to dance around it. The Bears flat-out stink. They are worse than last year's team, with a whole lot more talent. That's inexcusable and should put everything from roster-building approach to coaching and the long-term fit of the players under the microscope.
But I do think there are a few positive things.
One, I really like what I've seen out of Darnell Wright. He has continued to improve each week while facing a steady dose of top pass-rushers. Right guard Nate Davis also played well in his last full game before leaving the Vikings game with a high-ankle sprain. The right side of the offensive line is at least trending upward.
I think Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith have played well as rookie corners. Stevenson has had some tough moments, just like Kyler Gordon did last year, but that's life as a rookie corner in the NFL. I think both could be staples alongside Jaquan Brisker and Gordon. The Jaylon Johnson part of the equation looms large. I'm on the record saying the Bears should extend Johnson. He's an excellent cornerback who wants to be in Chicago. Letting good players walk isn't normally good business.
Outside of DJ Moore (duh), the secondary, and Wright, I don't think there's a lot to build on long-term. The defensive line hasn't popped at all outside of Andrew Billings, who is on a one-year deal and probably not long for the Bears. The linebackers have been disappointing, there's a hole at center, the backs have been just OK, and the non-Moore pass-catchers haven't done the job.
The coaching has ... well, let's get to that
Overreaction? No sir
Look, it's not all on coaching. There are a lot of factors at play.
But man, almost every week, there is a long list of cut-ups that show the Bears either missing assignments, not executing, or just looking like a team that's unprepared for what is thrown at them.
Last year's roster wasn't equipped to win. But the Bears' staff did an excellent job of making in-game adjustments and had the effort dialed up to 11 every game except that Week 17 stinker in Detroit, where they seemed to throw in the towel.
Those adjustments have evaporated.
I will credit Matt Eberflus for how well the defense played against the Vikings. Minnesota might stink, but giving up 12 points should be enough for the team to win. He added some good wrinkles and played to his unit's strengths. All credit there.
The offense has looked utterly unprepared outside of eight quarters against bad defenses. To have 10 days off before facing the Vikings and appear to have no plan or not be crisp in your execution of that plan is inexcusable.
There's the first play of the game where the Bears slide the protection, and the free runner comes from Fields' blindside. Fields knows it's hot, but fullback Khari Blasingame is the first read on the play out wide (not a joke). Moore comes open, but Fields doesn't rip it and is sacked. Later, the Bears run a pitch to the left, but left tackle Larry Borom and left guard Teven Jenkins pull around to the right, leaving Darrynton Evans to get blasted by the rusher off the edge.
It's all bad right now. The scheme, the execution, the lack of adjustments. All of it. Putrid.
No other way to say it.
Overreaction? Spot on
I think this is correct,
Fields has the talent to thrive and probably will elsewhere, but it doesn't seem like it will work here. The Bears' organizational issues trump even the most remarkable talents.
The Bears could easily sell the decision to pass on Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud last offseason. If they get the No. 1 or No. 2 pick this year (likely), they can't sell passing on Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Poles will get to reset the quarterback contract clock with a signal-caller of his choosing.
The Bears needed to see consistent growth from Fields over a long stretch of games this season to lock him as the franchise quarterback.
It has been a roller coaster so far, and this injury likely makes the Bears' decision easier.
Great question. I assume you mean title contender, so we'll operate under that premise.
On one hand, you can never underestimate the mediocrity of the NFL. The Bears could get two of the top three picks in the draft, take either Williams or Maye and Marvin Harrison Jr., and be off and running like the Bengals with Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase.
On the other hand, there are real questions about Poles' roster-building strategy. Both lines probably need to be overhauled, and a new staff is likely in order.
Let's look at the glass-half-full side and assume the Bears get two of the top three picks and a good chunk of Poles' draft selections continue to develop. Moore is already in place, and I'm just going to assume Tremaine Edmunds can play better than *gestures at the first six games* eventually.
So if the Bears enter next season with Williams/Maye and Harrison and Moore, plus a new head coach with an offensive play-caller worth his salt, maybe three years. But that feels optimistic, given everything that has happened this season.
It might help them get their house in order faster if the NFL could send them down to the B league. Wait, could the Bears beat Michigan? (It's a joke.)