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We’ve just passed the midway point of the season and the Chicago Bears are in the middle of their second mini-bye, slumping at 3-7.
There has been some good and also a lot of bad. This felt like the right time to take a step back and size up how we got here.
So let’s get to the midterm grades — which of course can be improved with a strong finish to the semester, err season.
QB1 Justin Fields: C
The season started out slow for Fields and the Bears. Some of that had to do with game planning, some with Fields holding onto the ball too long. Three touchdown passes and four interceptions after three games led to the Bears starting 0-3.
Then came eight touchdowns and only one interception in back-to-back games against less than stellar Denver and Washington.
But hope that Fields had arrived once and for all was quickly dashed in a home loss to Minnesota on October 15. He was hurt — holding onto the ball too long will do that — when he was sacked by Danielle Hunter.
We eagerly await his dynamic closing act to 2023.
QB2 Tyson Bagent: B
Backup quarterback fans everywhere grew excited when Bagent completed 13 of 14 passes in the preseason. He built on the hype by winning his first start against the dysfunctional Raiders, executing a conservative game plan.
Bagent showed he could get rid of the ball quickly and operate the offense smoother than his more talented QB room partner.
But Bagent also put the ball in harm’s way, throwing six interceptions and losing two fumbles. Five of those six interceptions came on the road when Bagent was asked to do too much for an undrafted rookie free agent from Division II Shepherd University.
Bagent’s arm strength will continue to be a question mark until he can consistently and safely place the ball down the field. It seems like the Bears have at least found their backup QB can be considered a relative win in this dysfunctional season.
Running Back: A-
The new Bears motto is “whoever runs the ball for us will dominate.” Khalil Herbert started out well then D’Onta Foreman did not miss a beat when Herbert went down with an ankle injury.
The Herbert / Foreman RB1 combo has combined for 639 yards so far. That is more than any one running back with the exception of Christian McCaffrey. Foreman is averaging 4.3 yards per carry, Herbert 5.3.
Whoever is playing quarterback should benefit from the Bears’ stout ground attack.
Wide receiver: C
DJ Moore is ninth in the NFL in receiving yards with 793. He is 14th at 79.3 per game. This is exactly where you thought WR1 would be, somewhere in the middle of the top receivers.
The problem with Moore is that he has leveled out the last five games. Moore has not had less than 44 yards receiving, but has not had more than the 58 he racked up last week versus Carolina.
Darnell Mooney is 112th in the league with only 22 receptions and 82nd in receiving yards.
Chase Claypool is hanging out on South Beach. He has one catch with the Dolphins, three less than with the Bears.
Tight End: A
Cole Kmet not only joined CHGO, but he’s also on his way to career-high numbers in every category. Kmet is fifth among NFL tight ends with 46 catches on only 57 targets. Kmet already has five touchdown catches and numerous eye-catching blocks. His contract extension looks like a steal for Ryan Poles and the Bears.
Offensive Line: B
This has been a roller coaster ride but it feels like the Bears are getting to a better place minus the center position. The Bears are fifth in rushing, 135.1 yards per game but have also given up the fifth most sacks.
Darnell Wright has lived up the 10th overall pick hype. Teven Jenkins got healthy and he’s now seemingly capable of playing both guard spots well.
Larry Borom held his own filling in for Braxton Jones proving he is a capable backup. Nate Davis found his footing after personal issues kept him out to start the season before injuring his ankle.
Center remains the problem. Lucas Patrick is holding the spot down for the rest of 2023. Cody Whitehair should be forever banned from the position. Doug Kramer got cut and is now an Arizona Cardinal.
Defensive Line: D-
There are only five teams allowing more points than the Bears: Broncos, Commanders, Panthers, Giants, Cardinals.
The main reason is the Bears do not get to the quarterback, worst in the NFL with only 13 sacks. That falls on this group. Yannick Ngakoue leads the Bears with 3 sacks. Help us Montez Sweat, you are our only hope.
T.J. Edwards is second in the NFL with 112 tackles. He has not been great in coverage, but Edwards has been around the ball consistently. Jack Sanborn stepped in beautifully for Tremaine Edmunds playing the middle. Sanborn has the same amount of solo tackles, 36, as Edmunds in less playing time.
Edmunds has been a disappointment. He is 41st in tackles and has only 3 TFLs. Ask yourself if you can think of one memorable Edmunds play other than a tipped ball that fell into his hands.
This group has been the Bears strength, but has simply missed too much time due to various injuries. Eddie Jackson has missed half of the season to lead the injured mob. Josh Blackwell has played only 3 games.
Jaylon Johnson, Jaquan Brisker, Kyler Gordon and Terell Smith have all missed multiple games as well.
Only rookie Tyrique Stevenson, Elijah Hicks and Jaylon Jones have been able to stay on the field. Four of the 6 Bears interceptions have come from this group. Good, but defensive coordinator Flus would like more.
Special Teams: A
Cairo Santos has missed one field goal attempt and is 4-4 from 50+. Trenton Gill has done everything right except use a better angle to tackle Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Trent Taylor hasn’t dropped a punt. Patrick Scales deserves credit for his long snapping perfect operation.
How about a fake at some point Richard Hightower?
The Bears should have at least four wins if not five. The Denver loss is at the top of the list. I am still not sure what the H.I.T.S. principle is since the Bears are dead last in the NFL at -9 taking the ball away.
Getting turnovers would fall under the talent window. Penalties would fall under discipline. The Bears have the third most penalities, 67, and the third most yards due to penalites, 554.
Matt Eberflus does the Bears no favors as the front man for the organization each week with the media. Flus could use some coaching on how to communicate.
A bigger concern is why it took Luke Getsy four games to figure out how best to use Justin Fields. How is this possible?
Getsy recently said the gameplan for Fields and Bagent are basically the same. Again, how is this possible? Fields is one of the most dynamic runners in the history of the NFL. Bagent, a decent athlete, is not.
The Bears continue to play hard, a low bar, but the reason why the staff still gets a passing grade.
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