It’s only been four games, but it already feels like we have experienced a season’s worth of ups and downs. Fans have witnessed the “snapshot” moment with Justin Fields and his teammates sliding into the end zone after defeating the 49ers and also a touchdown-less loss to the Giants. After four weeks, though, the Chicago Bears sit at 2-2 and are in third place in the NFC North.
Here are five takeaways through the first quarter of the Bears’ 2022 season.
1. The abysmal passing offense
These first four games have to be up there in terms of worst-case scenarios for Justin Fields entering Year 2. His offensive line currently ranks as the worst unit on true pass sets with a 27.3 grade, according to Pro Football Focus. His pass catchers are creating little to no separation on routes. And Fields himself has been inconsistent with his pocket presence, decision making and accuracy.
Fields did look better in the 20-12 loss against the Giants, but there is still more to be desired from the former No. 11 overall pick. Given everything that is going wrong with this passing offense, it’s fair to question how he can take a leap this season.
The only way this situation could get any worse is if Fields goes down with an injury. With the beating he has already taken this season, it’s, unfortunately, looking like a “when” not “if” outcome for the young quarterback.
2. Bears run defense is non-existent
There is a reason why the Bears’ defense has faced the most rushing attempts (143) through the first four weeks: The defense can’t stop the run.
So far defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ unit has given up 733 rushing yards, the highest total in the NFL. Last week against the Giants at MetLife Stadium, Saquon Barkley carried the ball 31 times for 146 yards. Daniel Jones added another 68 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and he averaged 11.3 yards on his six attempts. Two weeks before that at Lambeau Field Aaron Jones ran for 132 yards and a score. The 49ers gashed the Bears for 176 rushing yards in Week 1 at Soldier Field.
Is this a talent issue? A scheme issue? Probably both. Regardless, the Bears desperately need to find answers for their inability to stop the run. And players like Al-Quadin Muhammed, Nicholas Morrow and Angelo Blackson need to show improvement as the season goes on.
3. Eddie Jackson is back
The player who has benefited the most from this coaching change is undoubtedly Eddie Jackson. His three interceptions in four games are a clear indication of that, but so is his tackling.
There were several times throughout the Giants game where Jackson was the last line of defense on Saquon Barkley and the six-year veteran made the play.
Eberflus mentioned that Jackson is “hitting his stride” and “is in the best shape of his life” right now.
“He’s taking great angles, he’s tackling well,” Eberflus said. “He’s obviously ball-hawking, understand the big part of the field there. He blitzed well the other day. He’s doing everything you ask a safety to do. And he’s been a nice thing to see for me from just working with him.”
4. Teven Jenkins capitalizing on his opportunity
If there is any positive to Cody Whitehair being placed on IR, it’s simply that Teven Jenkins will be done rotating at right guard with Lucas Patrick. Eberflus said on Monday they will go with the “same lineup” that ended the Giants game, with Patrick playing left guard, Sam Mustipher at center and Jenkins at right guard.
Jenkins, despite going through plenty of uncertainty regarding his future with the Bears and having a position change, has been arguably the team’s best offensive lineman. Each game he appears to be getting more comfortable at the right guard position. In the last two weeks, he hasn’t given up a sack or allowed any hits or hurries, according to PFF.
Collectively the Bears’ offensive line hasn’t played well, but Jenkins is holding his own and making the most out of his current situation.
5. Inconsistent coaching
The Bears don’t have much top-end talent on their roster, so the coaching needs to be at its best. Certain areas illustrate this new staff is helping. The Bears are one of the least penalized teams in the league. Still, the coaching needs to be better for the remaining 13 games.
After seeing what the Packers and Giants did to the Bears’ defense, it’s fair to question if Alan Williams has coached his players on how to set the edge. Luke Getsy is at fault as well. Go back to the Texans game and the runs that were called on what should’ve been obvious passing situations on third down. In that same game, Matt Ebeflus didn’t use his timeouts in the closing minutes of the first half and missed out on an opportunity to get points.
The coaching staff has made some questionable decisions so far, and if that continues, the chances for this team to win any more games become even slimmer.