The Chicago Bears will kick off their 2022 preseason schedule on Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field when they host the Kansas City Chiefs. Matt Eberflus has already confirmed that starters will play a portion of the first quarter, with the team being cautious with players currently battling injuries. With second-year quarterback Justin Fields expected to play in most of Chicago’s preseason games, it is important to see him develop chemistry and timing with his backup wide receivers.
Fields Struggled Last Season Due To No Chemistry With Starting Offense
Chemistry and camaraderie with passing targets are always significant traits for any starting quarterback in the NFL to have, especially a young quarterback. Last season, one of the main reasons for Fields’ struggles was that he didn’t have any significant practice reps with the Bears’ starting wide receivers and tight ends. During the 2021 preseason, Chicago’s rookie quarterback was never on the field at the same time as David Montgomery, Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, and Jimmy Graham.
Chicago Bears HC Matt Eberflus said that offensive lineman Teven Jenkins is dealing with an injury and is day to day.
Eberflus also said that QB Justin Fields and the starters will play in the first preseason game.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) August 3, 2022
When Fields took over for an injured Andy Dalton in Week 2 against the Bengals last season, although the rookie quarterback had some nice passes, he failed to lead Chicago’s offense to a touchdown. Once head coach Matt Nagy made his rookie quarterback the team’s starter in Week 3, there were several games where unfamiliarity within the offense was apparent. From Week 5 to Week 8, there were several times in each game where the Bears’ offense struggled from a passing standpoint because Fields had no cohesion with his receivers.
NFL quarterbacks being on the same page with their passing targets from a timing standpoint is vital to better understanding and executing an offensive game-plan. During his first four starts in 2021, there were very few times Fields completed passes to one of his targets based on knowing that his intended target was going to make a catch on the ball. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7, Chicago’s rookie quarterback was intercepted when he tried to throw against the grain and complete a pass to Robinson downfield. Tampa Bay’s defender made the interception after the Bears’ receiver fell after trying to come back to the throw.
— Bucs Rays Bolts (@BucsRaysBoltsYT) October 24, 2021
Fields would improve on the chemistry and accuracy with his wide receivers as two weeks later, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he completed two impressive throws on back-to-back plays. Late in the fourth quarter, Chicago’s rookie quarterback completed a 39-yard pass to Robinson and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Mooney on the next play. On both throws, Fields threw the ball to a spot for his receiver to make the catch while also throwing the intended target open.
JUSTIN FIELDS 🚀 ALLEN ROBINSON
— PFF (@PFF) November 9, 2021
Injuries Can Work To Fields’ Advantage
On Saturday, Fields is expected to play the first couple of series with the Bears starting offense, despite having several injuries to the skill positions. Chicago has limited depth at the wide receiver position as N’Keal Harry, Byron Pringle, and Velus Jones Jr are all battling injuries and are unlikely to play. Although Fields has been working all offseason with Mooney, it allows the Bears’ second-year quarterback to work with wide receivers he hasn’t worked with before and who he may be throwing to in the regular season.
The Bears are back on the practice fields at Halas Hall. David Montgomery, Cole Kmet, N’Keal Harry and Byron Pringle are among those not practicing.
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) August 10, 2022
Due to the injuries to the Bears’ wide receivers that were expected to be contributors behind Mooney, Fields will now potentially have the chance to work with Dazz Newsome, Equanimous St. Brown, and Tajae Sharpe. Although these three pass catchers won’t be the primary targets during the regular season, it is still important to have familiarity with them. Fields will have both the game against the Chiefs and next Thursday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks to develop chemistry with St. Brown, Newsome, and Sharpe, which can prove beneficial if they need to contribute during the regular season.
Previous Bears’ quarterbacks have benefited from working with backup wide receivers due to injuries in the preseason. In 2015, Jay Cutler played in three of Chicago’s four preseason games, despite his top three receivers, Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, and Eddie Royal, missing those games due to injuries. Their injuries carried over into the regular season, but because Cutler had played with backups such as Cameron Meredith, Josh Bellamy, and Marquess Wilson, the veteran quarterback still managed to have his best season with the Bears.
Yes, finally a @ChicagoBears video. QB Jay Cutler finds WR Josh Bellamy for the 48 yard touchdown!
48 days until football! pic.twitter.com/LGbFvPtUsQ
— Outside the Pocket podcast (@Outside_Pocket1) July 23, 2021
Although the preseason games carry no value, the live reps that Fields can potentially have with his third and fourth-string wide receivers could make a significant difference when the games do matter. Chicago’s quarterback struggled during his rookie season because he had trouble with the offensive scheme and had little practice experience with his passing targets before he became the Bears’ starter. Fields has a tremendous opportunity starting Saturday to get the needed reps with his pass-catchers that he didn’t get a season ago.