Chicago Bears: What did we learn at QB in 2021?

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Lake Forest, IL.– It’s been just over a week since the 2021 regular season ended for the Chicago Bears and as the 2022 offseason begins, it’s clear that 2021 was filled with ups and downs at the quarterback position. The Bears cycled through three starting quarterbacks–Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, and Nick Foles–in a season where QB play defined the regular season.

As the page turns to 2022, let’s recap what the Bears taught us in 2021 in terms of the QB position.

1) Let’s go all the back to April 29th, the night the Bears drafted Justin Fields. Chicago moved up 11 spots in the first round, sending a 2022 first-rounder to the New York Giants for the opportunity to move up and draft Fields. When Chicago pulled the trigger on Fields, the 2021 season and ensuing three seasons became meaningful all of a sudden. Just four years after missing on Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears had more hope than ever.

2) Ex-HC Matt Nagy wanted to use 2021 as a way to implement the “Mahomes Model,” having veteran Andy Dalton start the entire regular season while Fields watched from the bench. Instead, Dalton was injured in week 2, leading to Fields being thrust into action. Nagy’s plan didn’t succeed and his biggest flaw was shown: While Fields was Nagy’s hand-picked quarterback, Nagy was never ready to be the man in charge of developing Fields.

3) There needs to be some serious credit given to Nick Foles, who started just one game in 2021. Despite being labeled as a third-string quarterback for a majority of the season, Foles’ willingness to be vocal in meetings meant challenging Nagy’s philosophy and approach. This alone showcases why Foles was such a valuable piece for the Bears quarterback room.

4) Chemistry with the wide receiver position is always crucial for the QB position and the Bears did Fields a complete disservice by not giving him extended time to practice with the first team throughout training camp. When looking at the WR position, the goal should’ve been to maximize Fields’ time with Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson. Instead, the trio that could’ve formed the offensive foundation of the future for the Bears was forced to build chemistry on the fly, leading to below-average results.

5) Throughout the season, there were debates regarding whether or not Justin Fields was the answer for the Bears at QB. It’s too early to get a read on whether or not Fields is the Bears’ true answer at quarterback but the 11th overall pick did showcase enough potential to warrant being labeled the answer.

What does 2022 hold for the Bears at QB?

Chicago needs to make 2022 the offseason of Justin Fields. That starts with hiring the right head coach and general manager who can build around Fields. That means getting Fields a starting-caliber Center to anchor the middle of the offensive line while reinvesting in the starting quarterback position.

For the Bears, making a commitment to investing in Fields while continuing his development means being active in free agency and the NFL Draft, prioritizing the offense at the expense of the defense. However, with just five draft picks but ample cap space, the Bears will need to be smart, figuring out a way to maximize the second year of Fields rookie contract.

 

Chicago Bears: Ownerships reaffirms commitment to Ryan Pace

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LAKE FOREST, IL.– The 2022 offseason has yet to officially start for the Chicago Bears but the talk has never really stopped. Since the end of the 2020 season, questions have lingered about the future of general manager Ryan Pace. When Pace first stepped to the podium eight years ago after being hired by the Bears, his energy and commitment to being great was apparent.

It could be argued that one simple quote from Pace has been the exact opposite of how his tenure has gone. Fast forward seven seasons later and Pace has missed on two head coaches, drafted two quarterbacks in the first round, one winning season, and two playoff appearances with zero wins.

“The recipe to winning Super Bowls is stringing successful drafts together again and again,” said Pace via the Chicago Tribune in 2015. “We are acquiring football players that fit the Chicago Bears. There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts, and intelligence. Guys, it’s all about winning games and that’s what I’m here to do. Every decision we make goes back to what’s best for this organization. It’s as simple as that. Our plan will start being put into place to get the Chicago Bears back to the sustained success this city deserves.”

When the Bears season ends on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, it’ll be the sixth time in seven seasons that Pace has had a losing record. When Monday rolls around, expect head coach Matt Nagy to be fired, and when Pace returns, the Bears will allow him to hire a third head coach.

Pace returning isn’t about Chairman George McCaskey reinforcing who’s really calling the shots at Halas Hall. It’s about McCaskey’s own confidence and belief that Pace can live up to what he said eight years ago: Building a long-term and sustainable winner.

The ship for Pace to turn the Bears into a winner hasn’t necessarily sailed, especially with rookie quarterback Justin Fields now the future of the franchise but it’s hard to ignore Pace’s first seven seasons with the Bears. A new head coach essentially means Pace’s window will reopen for however long McCaskey sees fit. Fields too guarantees Pace some additional job security. In what is quickly turning out to be the most anticipated offseason in franchise history, the Bears are confident Pace can deliver despite a tumultuous tenure so far.

Chicago Bears: Justin Fields on track to start in week 18

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LAKE FOREST, IL– After missing two consecutive games due to an ankle injury, the Chicago Bears are hopeful that rookie quarterback Justin FIelds is able to return to the starting lineup in week 18 for the Bears’ regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.

Fields, who’s recorded as a starter is currently 2-8, has had a rookie season filled with ups and downs. The Bears haven’t been good enough on offense around Fields to give the 11th overall pick a chance at winning enough games. Likewise, while Fields has had his fair share of rookie mistakes, he’s thrown just seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions in 2021 while completing just 58.9 percent of his passes. Fields’ bright moments have been apparent at times in 2021, as have rookie mistakes.

“We’ll get him in here the next couple days and see where he’s at and then be able to get him going for Wednesday practice,” Nagy said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And again, it’s always going to come down to his health. It’s always going to come down to medically where he’s at, where we feel he’s at, and then we go play ball.”

When the Minnesota Vikings played the Chicago Bears on December 20th, Fields went 26-for-39 with 285 yards, and one touchdown, completing 66.67 percent of his passes. The Bears reached the redzone on five separate occasions but failed to significantly capitalize, scoring a touchdown just once towards the end of the game.

When Fields does play on Sunday, the Bears week 15 film against Minnesota should serve as a basis for his own preparation. Minnesota did throw a number of exotic blitz packages at Fields and while the Bears rookie adjusted well, week 18 should provide the Bears rookie with another chance to put up a strong performance and end the regular season on a high note.

How attractive is the Chicago Bears HC job in 2022?

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CHICAGO, IL–Just two weeks remain before the Chicago Bears officially move on from head coach Matt Nagy and begin searching for the 17th head coach in franchise history. With Nagy on his way out, the future of general manager Ryan Pace remains uncertain, with the possibility of a return not off the table.

The Bears brass being split on what to do with Pace leads to an intriguing question: If Pace is allowed a third head coach, just how attractive is the Bears head coaching gig in 2022? With rookie quarterback, Justin Fields in the fold through at least the 2024 season, any new head coach would be guaranteed at least three seasons.

Then consider the rest of the offense. The Bears have some upcoming talent in offensive tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, running back Khalil Herbert, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, and tight end Cole Kmet. Add that to an offensive core that already includes interior offensive lineman James Daniels and Cody Whitehair, along with running back David Montgomery, and it’s clear the Bears offense has the potential to be exciting.

Defense is a different story for the Bears, one that will require a full retooling. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson, linebacker Roquan Smith, pass rusher Khalil Mack, and safety Eddie Jackson form an exciting core. While 11th-year pass rusher Robert Quinn is on the verge of setting the franchise’s single-season sack record, Quinn likely won’t be with the Bears beyond 2022. The Bears’ willingness to rely heavily on defense throughout the Nagy era will soon be met with an overhaul that will form the foundation of the next great defense in Chicago.

Consider this too: Chicago is an original charter franchise of the NFL and in the third biggest market in the United States, the thought of merely getting the Bears back to relevance should excite prospective candidates. With a handful of jobs set to be open soon, the Bears surely offer one of the most enticing destinations for head coaches who are looking to win quickly and get a prominent franchise back to contention.

Chicago Bears: Week 15 takeaways, quick tidbits, and more

With week 15 having wrapped up for the Chicago Bears, it’s time to go back and recap another painful Bears loss in an already lost season.

1) Let’s start with rookie cornerback Thomas Graham Jr., who had seven tackles and three pass breakups in his first career start. When the Bears drafted Graham Jr. in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, he was labeled as a hidden gem and future starter. Despite just one start, Graham Jr. did more than enough to show why he can be the Bears answer at CB moving forward, opposite Jaylon Johnson. For a team that will have a lot of needs to address in 2022, having two starting CB’s on rookie deals will provide cap flexibility.

2) Justin Fields had his ups and downs in this game but at the end of the day, Fields performance was more encouraging than most would admit. After orchestrating five trips to the redzone, the Bears scored a touchdown just once but it was Fields leading the way on each of those drives. Moral of the story is that while Fields’ progress may not seem apparent, the Bears are at least moving the ball but failing to execute in key situations. Essentially, the Bears’ offensive struggles aren’t Fields fault, who’s been dealt a bad hand.

3) Robert Quinn deserves no more slander for the rest of the season. Quinn had two sacks on Monday night and now has 16 total sacks on the season. With three games left, Quinn needs just one more sack to break the Bears franchise record for single-season sacks, which is set at 17.0 by Richard Dent. After last season, many assumed Quinn was set to regress even more in 2021 but so far, he’s been an investment that’s paid off big time.

4) Matt Nagy was the playcaller on Monday for the Bears due to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor being out as a result of COVID-19. Nagy’s playcalling was about as predictable as it’s been since the much-lambasted head coach arrived in Chicago four seasons ago. Nagy’s inability to call the right plays in the redzone hurt the Bears, forcing the defense to win the game.

5) Justin Fields threw 39 times, completing just 26 passes. When the Bears switched to Fields, the offense was more balanced but still was run-first, with everything clicking. Over the last few weeks, the Bears have abandoned their run-first philosophy and conveyed that it’s up to the passing attack to win the game.

6) Credit to defensive coordinator Sean Desai and the Bears defense. Despite missing Jaylon Johnson, Eddie Jackson, and Tashaun Gipson, Desai found a way to hold Vikings QB Kirk Cousins to just 87 passing yards and 3.6 yards per attempt. Cousins isn’t elite by any means but the Bears secondary got the job done, which is all that matters.

7) If anything, this was a game that the Bears could’ve won with ease. The Vikings didn’t necessarily look like the better team but the Bears’ own mistakes actually created some momentum and allowed the Vikings to capitalize on missed opportunities.

8) Robert Quinn’s criticism of the refereeing is warranted. In an age where the game continues to be more QB friendly, Quinn alluded to how it’s harder to play defense in the NFL and that sometimes, calls that seem to be too close, should just be let go.

“”These refs seem like they’re controlling the game a little too much. So, when a play is clean and they’re throwing a flag for something that they thought they could change a game [with] just by one flag … let guys play ball. If this was a couple years ago, half of this stuff wouldn’t even be called. But now, they got so many of these stupid rules, they dang near in a ref’s hands [and] could change the game in any given moment.”

Quinn has every right to be upset, especially as a player who’s having such a resurgent season after being named to his third Pro Bowl.

9) Let’s talk about LB Roquan Smith being snubbed from the Pro Bowl. Smith has emerged as one of the best LB’s in the NFL over the last few years but why does he keep getting snubbed is a major point of contention. Smith is every bit talented as Darius Leonard, Bobby Wagner, and Denzel Perryman. At the end of the day, while Smith may not get the recognition he’s earned, the Bears should be content knowing they have a blue-chip player and a leader in Smith.

10) Minnesota averaged just 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. While running back Dalvin Cook has 89 total yards, the Bears limited Cook to just 3.2 yards per carry, an impressive feat as Akiem Hicks returned to the lineup and provided a spark to a defense that badly needed one. Credit once again goes to Sean Desai for being able to put together a solid game plan, with the Bears’ defensive line dominating in the trenches.

Chicago Bears: An unnecessary implosion against the Vikings

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Chicago, IL–If you watched the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in week 15, props to you for sitting through one of the ugliest games of the season. A week after losing to the Green Bay Packers on national television, the Bears returned to Soldier Field to take on Minnesota Vikings in another ugly game that was mirrored by inconsistency all across the board for Chicago on offense.

Rookie quarterback Justin Fields had one fumble on the evening but once again, the Bears failed to get any sort of rhythm established around the 11th overall pick, forcing Fields to once again play with desperation, doing anything to keep the Bears relevant. The Bears had five total redzone trips, with just one ending in a touchdown. Add in a missed field goal from Kicker Cairo Santos and the Bears were once again a dumpster fire throughout the evening.

What the Bears did do correctly was play hard-nosed on the defensive side of the ball. Rookie cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. was a pleasant bright spot who emerged in his first career start. Graham Jr. had seven tackles and three pass breakups, leading an already depleted secondary. Pass rusher Robert Quinn took yet another step forward with four total tackles and two sacks as the 11-year veteran looks to chase Richard Dent’s single-season sack record, which is currently set at 17.5.

From a numbers standpoint, the Bears had 24 total first downs and 370 total yards of offense, compared to Minnesota, which had just 193 total yards and 13 first downs. Despite sacking Vikings QB Kirk Cousins four times, what really hurt Chicago was seven total penalties, some of which could be considered questionable calls by the officiating crew.

With the Bears’ latest loss, Chicago has now lost 10 games on the season and has lost three total divisional games this season against NFC North opponents. Up next for the Bears is a road trip to the Pacific Northwest, where Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks await.

Chicago Bears: Week 14 takeaways, quick tidbits, and more

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After another loss to the Green Bay Packers, there are just four games left in the 2021 regular season for the Chicago Bears. Before we look ahead to week 15, let’s recap week 14.

1) The Bears haven’t won in Lambeau Field since 2015. That’s right, it’s been seven seasons and Matt Nagy has won just once against the Packers since 2018. At some point, the McCaskey family needs to realize that Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace haven’t done what they were brought in to do: Beat Green Bay and make the Bears relevant again in the NFL’s oldest rivalry.

2) There are a lot of people who are pessimistic when it comes to evaluating Justin Fields play on Sunday night. There was some good, some bad, and some questionable. But overall, Fields had a typical rookie performance and went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers, who already has a spot reserved in Canton, Ohio.

3) Speaking of evaluating Fields, it’s hard to gauge where he’s really at, especially since the rest of the Bears’ offense wasn’t exactly perfect on Sunday night either, especially in the second half. This brings up another important question: Is Fields struggling or does the rest of the Bears offense failed to execute and help Fields?

4) Justin Fields had a pick-six against Packers CB Rasul Douglas and while he’ll learn from this mistake, Fields responded with a 54-yard touchdown pass just a few plays later. The touchdown pass to WR Damiere Byrd is great but what really matters was Fields ability to respond to Douglas interception, something that gave the Packers life. Fields’ response showcases confidence that few Bears’ QB’s have exhibited over the years.

5) Want to know what we saw in the first half against the Packers? We saw exactly what Matt Nagy has wanted since arriving in Chicago: An explosive big-play offense that relies on quick passes to move the ball in big chunks and score with ease. The Bears had the ball for just 25 minutes the entire game and scored 24 unanswered points in the second quarter.

6) The Bears’ inability to adjust in the second half is troubling. Few teams are going to score 24 points in the first half with ease against the Packers and the Bears took the foot off the pedal in the second half, which included abandoning the running game. This lack of second-half execution cost the Bears big time, especially in a game that was winnable until the very end.

7) Let’s give some love to CB Jaylon Johnson, who shutdown Packers WR Devante Adams in a way that not many have seen before. Per Next Gen Stats, Johnson allowed just 1.9 yards of separation and 19 total yards. If you want to talk about why Adams two touchdowns, it’s because he beat backup CB Xavier Crawford twice.

8) Sunday night was another indication the Bears WR room needs to be rebuilt and rebuilt badly heading into the 2022 offseason. Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson combine for three receptions and 33 receiving yards, and 11 total targets. Robinson seems mentally checked out while Mooney had an off day which he’ll need to rebound from.

9) Artie Burns had another above-average performance, showing us all why he’s a better option than Kindle Vildor. Burns isn’t a long-term replacement by any means but he’s better than whatever the Bears have on the roster right now.

10) Tight end Cole Kmet dropped a pass in the endzone that would’ve been a touchdown. The Bears have run this exact some play multiple times this season and Kmet has yet to haul a TD in, which is troubling for a player who was a high draft pick and once the future of the TE position for Chicago.

Chicago Bears: Packers spoil Justin Fields return

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Green Bay, WI– After an offensive explosion that included 27 points in the first quarter, the Chicago Bears were once again beaten by their rivals to the north on Sunday night football. After two passing touchdowns in the first half too wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Damiere Byrd, the Bears looked to be well on their way towards a victory at Lambeau Field.

Throughout the first half, the Bears looked like a team that came to play in all three phases. After Packers cornerback, Rasul Douglas returned a 55-yard pick-six to the house, Fields confidence as he led the Bears down the field in just under two minutes for a touchdown, retaining the lead.

During the first half, the Bears defense set the tone, with veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn totaling two sacks. Second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson had a strong first half, continuing to neutralize wide receiver Davante Adams, who eventually broke away and totaled 10 receptions for 121 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.

Despite another loss to the Packers, the Bears’ young talent did have some bright moments in this game. Rookie offensive tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom had solid outings, with Jenkins taking over for Jason Peters, who left in the first quarter due to an ankle injury and did not return. Wide receiver Jakeem Grant, who was acquired earlier in the season for a 2023 sixth-round pick had a 97-yard punt return in the second quarter as the Chicago’s special teams unit provided a big boost throughout the evening.

The Bears may not be ready to compete with the Packers just yet but Sunday night indicated the Bears have a good foundation in place that will form the core of the team for years to come. While allowing 17 points in the third quarter helped the Packers pull away, Chicago put up a fight in a game that many never gave the Bears a chance.

 

Chicago Bears: Week 14 could be passing of the NFC North torch

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On Sunday night, when the Chicago Bears take the field for a primetime matchup against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears will look to earn their first win against their biggest rivals since the 2018 season. For more than a decade, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has tormented the Bears but Sunday, when the Bears trot out rookie quarterback Justin Fields, it’ll be the 11th overall pick’s first game at Lambeau Field.

What could be Fields’ first game at Lambeau Field against the Packers could also be Rodgers’ final game against the Bears in a Packers uniform. While 2022 isn’t set in stone, what we know is this: The Bears are committed to Justin Fields through 2022 and beyond. Meanwhile, after an offseason that featured rumors about Rodgers not wanting to return to Green Bay, the future at quarterback is uncertain for the Packers should Rodgers leave next offseason.

The Packers may have 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love on the roster but in just one career start, Love is 19-for-34 with 190 yards, one touchdown, and one passer rating of 65.9. Love’s numbers may not blow anyone away, however, to fairly evaluate him, the Packers need to see him start for a full season before coming to any conclusions.

Currently, with the end of the 2021 season quickly approaching, Fields is clearly the one quarterback with the most intriguing future. The NFC North appears to be wide open in 2022 should Rodgers not return, meaning Fields will have the opportunity to dominate for the next decade and turn the tide in favor of the Bears.

For the tide to begin turning, a win on Sunday night merely starts the process. The Bears have won just four games all seasons and while the chance of making the playoffs seem slim, a win on Sunday night on national television makes a lost season more bearable while continuing to build Fields confidence and setting the stage for a passing of the torch.

Chicago Bears: Week 12 takeaways, quick tidbits, and more

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After a Turkey Day snoozefest that resulted in a win for the Chicago Bears, it’s time to recap week 12 for the Bears.

1) A win is a win, no matter what circumstances surround a team in the NFL. The Bears got the job done against the worst team in the NFL, which is clearly positive, and at the end of the day, the Bears snapped a five-game losing streak. After the game, head coach Matt Nagy did sound relieved but also thanked players and coaches for what was a tumultuous week at Halas Hall. The Bears battled hard for Nagy in this game, despite what you believe.

2) Darnell Mooney continues to emerge as a big playmaker for the Bears’ offense. The second-year wide receiver had five receptions for 123 yards, averaging 24.6 yards per reception. During Allen Robinson’s absence, Mooney’s emergence is a positive for the Bears, who will revamp the wide receiver in 2022 with Mooney being the face of the position.

3) Staying with Mooney, the Bears 2020 draft class made an impact in this game. Tight end Cole Kmet and cornerback Jaylon Johnson both had big games, while pass rusher Trevis Gipson had two tackles, and a forced fumble. This draft class is quietly forming the foundation for the Bears roster for years to come, which is big for the Bears, who had no first-round picks in 2020.

4) The Lions have little to no pass rush but the Bears did a good job of keeping Andy Dalton upright all afternoon. Dalton was sacked just once and while Chicago’s offensive line did just enough to give Dalton time to make something happen. Overall, this was a game where the Bears OL made some progress, especially rookie fifth-round pick Larry Borom, who’s solidified his job as the starting right tackle.

5) The Bears running game wasn’t successful. Chicago averaged just 2.3 yards per attempt while David Montgomery had just 46 rushing yards. Overall, this wasn’t an encouraging performance for the Bears, with rookie Khalil Herbert falling to make any sort of significant impact for the second straight game. For the rest of the season, Nagy has one job: Figure out how to utilize Montgomery and Herbert to keep defenses guessing.

6) Give the Lions some credit. Sure Dan Campbell’s squad is winless but on the field, the Lions played and battled till the very end, something you always appreciate about any NFL team. It may not be pretty right now but Campbell’s passion and competitive spirit is prevalent every single game. Not saying the Lions are about to be an immediate threat anytime soon but a head coach always needs to sell his vision and get the players buy-in to begin building a successful program.

7) Let’s talk about injuries for the Bears. The Bears walked away from what you could consider a meaningless game banged up. Linebacker Roquan Smith (hamstring) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (foot) left the game and did not return. While the Bears have not yet released any information about Smith or Goodwin, linebacker and wide receiver are incredibly thin when it comes to depth. Chicago will need to rely on players like Christian Jones and Isaiah Coulter to pick up the slack.

8) Quarterback Andy Dalton wasn’t bad but wasn’t great either. Dalton was about as middle-of-the-pack as it could get but throwing for 317 yards should be considered a positive. With Justin Fields’ status for week 13 uncertain, Dalton will need to prepare to face a tough Arizona Cardinals team that’s looking to rebound big that’s gone .500 over the last four weeks.

9) Veteran Jimmy Graham played 20 percent of the Bears snaps on offense. Graham has been an afterthought for the Bears this season but considering how involved he was against the Lions, it’s clear the Bears are using the veteran tight end at will. Graham won’t be on the Bears roster in 2022, his days are numbered despite his usage being wildly inconsistent.

10) Final point here but it’s clear the Bears are who they are at this point. This team doesn’t have the makings of being able to make a run in December, nor at least continue to remain competitive. Hopefully, the Bears do have some December magic in them but it may be time to start looking ahead to 2022 and this game was a major indication of that.