We may have seen the last of Justin Fields in the preseason. On Tuesday, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus shared an update on the team’s plans for their exhibition finale. He said the team will determine whether or not starters play not only on an individual basis based on how much each guy has accomplished in practice and based on their health, but based on the overall health of each position group.
The obvious link there is whether or not the offensive line will be healthy enough for the team to feel good about putting Fields back in the line of fire.
“That will be looked at,” Eberflus said. “There's no question that will be looked at. You've always gotta look at the combinations and the health of the offensive linemen when you're talking about the quarterback. That will all be looked at and we'll see where it is.”
Eberflus previously said he wanted Fields to get more game action in the preseason, but he held Fields out against the Colts because of what he and the first-team offense accomplished in joint practices before the game. Fields played just seven snaps in the first preseason game, and only threw three passes. All of them were short passes.
There’s still time for things to improve before Saturday’s game, but right now it doesn’t look like the offensive line will be healthy enough for Fields to go. Here’s where things stood by the end of practice on Tuesday:
Left tackle: Braxton Jones is ok. Don’t get too hopeful though, this is the only position where things haven't changed.
Left guard: Cody Whitehair played with his right hand heavily wrapped, in place of Teven Jenkins who is “week to week” with a leg injury. Whitehair has exclusively played center up to this point. Eberflus says whatever is ailing his hand is a “day to day” problem.
Center: Lucas Patrick is still ramping up. Doug Kramer and Dieter Eiselen each took reps in team periods as the team searches for Whitehair’s replacement.
Right guard: Nate Davis is still ramping up from his extended absence earlier this summer. Ja’Tyre Carter took the leftover reps.
Right tackle: Darnell Wright is dealing with an indeterminate leg injury that forced him out of practice early. Larry Borom took his spot.
If that looks like a hodge podge position group to you, you're not mistaken. After having consistency for most of the year, Tuesday felt like the Bears went back to the same offensive line blender they used throughout 2022 to find their best starting five.
“You've just got to be flexible, you know?” said Eberflus. “You've got to look at every situation as opportunity, but then you also have to be smart and have some discernment with your decision, so I just look at every situation as that. It is what it is right there, so how can you create opportunities for other people in that situation? Then we also have to have wisdom with discernment to make the right decisions. That's the way it is with the NFL roster and going through an NFL season.”
Last season, Fields played 18 snaps in the first preseason game, nine snaps in the second preseason game and 30 snaps in the final preseason game.