Friday, April 19, 2024

12 Bye-Week Thoughts On The Bears


SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — After a tame yet enjoyable bye week, I got back on the road to a corporate center roughly 15 miles north of downtown Atlanta.  After one particularly long set of meetings, I spent a solid 30 minutes in the afternoon sipping bad, burnt (?) and overpriced coffee from a world-famous, overrated-as-hell chain that originated in beautiful Seattle.  It was a good opportunity to think about football — namely, the Chicago Bears’ 2021 season so far.

The incredible view of the fall orange and yellow leaves around me reminded me of the yellow that littered Heinz Field one week ago.  The loss that shouldn’t have been; alas, the loss that certainly ruined the Bears’ season.

Instead of 4-5, the Bears entered the bye week at 3-6 and firmly near the bottom of the NFC — just in front of the winless Lions.

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Not great.  But there are reasons to be interested — say, hopeful? — about the second half of the season.  And I do have some thoughts on the Bears’ season so far and what we should expect / watch for.  I shared them below.  Follow me on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.

Bye-Week Bears Thoughts

  • I mentioned it above, but the Bears’ loss to Pittsburgh was a killer.  After a rough first half, the Bears came alive in the second half — and large part courtesy of Justin Fields’ emergence in that game.  The Bears won, until they lost.  And there are no moral victories in the NFL.  Being 4-5 and in the thick of the playoff race, especially after Fields’ heroics — is a lot different than being 3-6.  But here they are.  That said, if Fields can grow from that game, the Bears could pull off some upsets in the second half.  With a *good* Fields, Baltimore, Arizona, Green Bay and Seattle are all beatable.
  • Speaking of Fields, he has come a long, long way from his first start disaster in Cleveland.  He looks more decisive, his decisions are largely good, and he’s been more aggressive attacking downfield in his last two games.  And it’s worked much better.  Fields is recognizing blitzes and, in general, looking a lot more comfortable and competent at QB.  That bodes well.
  • That said, you can’t just credit Fields and continue to spew angry rhetoric that the coaching staff is worthless.  They absolutely deserve some credit for Fields’ better play recently.  At the very least John DeFilippo’s messages are getting through to Fields.  Bill Lazor has called better games for Fields.  Matt Nagy has allowed that formula to continue cooking itself.  They’re finding a balance and rhythm.  That’s huge.  And the coaches do deserve some credit for it.  One has to hope they’ve self-scouted well during the bye week.
  • During that self-scouting, I’m hoping the Bears were able to find ways to get guys like Jesse James, Jesper Horsted, and Marquise Goodwin more involved in the passing game.  Fields has connections with them — I’d like to see them blossom.  I’ll say Fields’ connection with Cole Kmet has started to take off over the last month, and that’s encouraging.  One guy I’d like to see make his debut in the second half?  Dazz Newsome.  One of the Bears’ sixth-round draft picks, Newsome was waived at final cuts, thanks in large part to his collarbone injury.  He’s spent a good bit of time practicing and learning with Chicago’s practice squad.  Let him come up, prove himself, see if the Bears can at least answer one WR depth question for 2022, and see if Fields and he can develop an intriguing connection.
  • Darnell Mooney is a lot of fun.  He has ascended, in my opinion.  And with Allen Robinson almost certain to leave Chicago after this year, the Bears only have known entity going into next year.  That’s frightening.  The Bears need to protect Mooney at all costs.
  • Larry Borom has been awesome so far.  To go up against Nick Bosa and T.J. Watt and hold your own?  As a rookie fifth-round draft pick?  Impressive.  The fact that Teven Jenkins begins his 21-day window today to possibly return is also exciting.  If the Bears’ bookend rookie tackles can show hope for 2022, that’s a huge win for this season.
  • Speaking of offensive linemen, the Bears need to plan for life after Sam Mustipher.  He’s the weak link on that OL, and the Bears need to upgrade for 2022.  Chicago found excellent depth in Mustipher, but he has been frequently bullied against bigger, better defensive linemen.  Great story, mediocre center.
  • Eddie Jackson deserves an apology.  The Bears’ secondary has been exposed like never before with his absence.  The Bears miss his coverage ability and instincts, even if his tackling is suboptimal.  Hurry back, EJax.
  • Speaking of the secondary, Jaylon Johnson is very solid.  He is an elite CB2, solid CB1.  The Bears need more from their corners in 2022.  This ought to be an area of huge investment next year.  Pass rush is great and important, but the Bears need better coverage (man coverage) next season.  Kindle Vildor just ain’t it as a starter.
  • There are several Bears playing for future contracts.  Three of the main ones are: David Montgomery, Bilal Nichols and James Daniels.  Nichols has really struggled this year, and at this point, can’t be considered worthy of a huge contract to replace Akiem Hicks.  The Bears need more.  James Daniels is a solid, if unspectacular, guard.  But he’s young and can still theoretically grow.  The Bears would be wise to consider an extension for Daniels.  And David Montgomery’s value is well-documented, but he is still a running back.  Can the retooling Bears afford to set aside another extension for a RB after shelling out solid money for Tarik Cohen?
  • Speaking of Cohen, obviously his recovery from an ACL tear has been slower than anticipated.  The Bears miss him, a lot.  Hopefully he can return in some capacity this season, but it’s looking less likely with each passing week.
  • My expectations for the rest of the season, assuming Fields continues his trajectory of the last two games and improves / plays well:
    • vs. BAL — W
    • @ DET — W
    • vs. ARI — L
    • @ GB — L
    • vs. MIN — W
    • @ SEA — W
    • vs. NYG — W
    • @ MIN — L

Final record: 8-9, MISS the playoffs

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