DETROIT — All the credit in the world to Bears fans who can remain so optimistic about the future despite so many glaring problems. Honestly, it’s pretty impressive.
And to the quarterback’s credit, Justin Fields has done everything in his power this season to create that optimism and there’s no doubt the Chicago Bears have the best quarterback situation they’ve had in many generations.
Now here comes the BUT — and it came in the form of Sunday’s embarrassing 41-10 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. The reality is that Bears general manager Ryan Poles has a ton of work to do — enough work that no one can just assume everything is going to work out because the quarterback looks like a keeper.
The offensive line? Does it need four or five new starters?
The wide receivers? Is anyone ever open? The Chase Claypool trade looks worse every week, especially after a sideline blowup Sunday that had Fields admitting: “That’s not helping anybody. That’s just spreading everybody apart.” (Fields’ full response showed incredible leadership, by the way. Claypool did not speak to reporters after the game.)
As for the defense? Well, no one should be that surprised about the Bears giving up 41 points given the reality that there were probably only two 2023 starters on the field (Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon) and neither played that well.
But that’s kind of the problem. Whether it’s Brisker, Gordon, Claypool, left tackle Braxton Jones or even right guard Teven Jenkins, the pieces you want to feel excited about still come with questions. Jones admitted he struggled Sunday, pointing to his high pad level as an issue. He’s had a decent rookie season, but he probably hasn’t played well enough to pass on a cornerstone left tackle that may be available in free agency or the draft. As for Jenkins, he’s been great this year, but can the Bears trust his body now that he’s had neck, back and hip issues throughout his first two seasons?
So while the Fields hype is warranted, Sunday’s blowout served as a good reminder that the H.I.T.S. philosophy, a ton of cap space, and draft picks won’t magically fix the Bears. There might only be eight starting spots solidified for 2023, and that’s including running back, where a decision still must be made on David Montgomery.
And then there’s the quarterback, who the majority of the fanbase wanted to wrap in bubble wrap and glue to the bench in the second half Sunday. I get it. No one wants to see Fields get hurt. But this was a favorable matchup for him. It was one in which we should have seen considerable growth on a fast indoor track. Instead, it turned into an offensive flop, and Fields summed it up pretty well:
“I think sometimes on first down, I’m getting pressure. I’m trying to make a play out of nothing, and I take a sack for six, seven yards and we’re now second-and-15, so I can’t do that,” Fields said. “And then, they got back there pretty fast today on some plays, so we’ve just got to be better up front. They know that, and it just starts with me, so I just got to get better for my guys and keep working, keep going.”
No, he’s not getting much help. And yes, the offensive line was particularly bad on Sunday. But good for Fields for acknowledging that he was part of the issue too. It’s unfortunate, while still understandable, that the Bears’ offensive growth has stalled out so much late in the season. And from that standpoint, it’s also understandable why the coaching staff is trying to squeeze out all the reps they can from the season, even late in blowout losses.
“We want to get that live experience,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said after the game. “You can’t really get that anywhere else, so that’s why we decided as a staff (to keep Fields in the game). He said, ‘I want to be in there.’ Credit to him, he was, ‘Coach, man, I’m still going out there. I want to be able to operate.’ With his toughness and grit, he wants to go out there and compete, and that’s what he did.”
That’s one of the many things to like about Fields, even if it means protecting him from himself at some point.
Regardless, everyone can agree that the quarterback needs a lot more help around him. And that’s where Poles’ job is barely getting started. The reality is that Poles already did the easy part of his job. Anyone can teardown an NFL roster. The hard part is building it back up.
And as Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions proved, Poles has an enormous challenge ahead of him this offseason.
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