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Hoge's Bears Things: Justin Fields meets high training camp expectations

Adam Hoge Avatar
August 31, 2022

LAKE FOREST — By the time you read this, there’s a good chance the Bears’ initial 53-man roster has already changed. Too bad, huh.

Let’s dive into this week’s Bears Things: 

The Lead: Fields meets high expectations

The 53-man roster obviously matters a lot, but let’s not lose sight of what matters most: the quarterback. 

Before training camp began, I challenged Justin Fields (not directly, just on the CHGO Bears Podcast) to blow me away. Some thought those expectations were too high, but I argued that asking the No. 11 overall draft pick from 2021 to shine during the preseason wouldn’t be an unreasonable request for most NFL franchises. Why should it be for the Bears? (Besides the whole history of the franchise, I know.)

The final line: 23/30, 243 passing yards, 3 TDs, 133.1 passer rating. 

Not too bad. 

Obviously preseason numbers don’t matter much, but those stats certainly beat the alternative. What matters more is that Fields and the Bears’ offense steadily improved throughout August.

And I’m not going to lie, it was ugly early. But as camp went on, Fields became more comfortable in Luke Getsy’s offense. His footwork improved. His decisions sped up. He got better. 

Specifically, in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Browns, Fields’ improved footwork was on full display. If you think about it like a golf shot, his feet were consistently aligned with his target. That always leads to better accuracy.

Does his strong preseason guarantee Fields is on his way to stardom? Obviously not. He still tends to bail out of the pocket too soon. I think the accuracy can still get better. And the defenses are going to be a lot tougher come Sept. 11. 

But that reality doesn’t diminish what was accomplished during the preseason. It’s OK to have high expectations for the kid. Justin Fields is meeting them right now. 

Takeaways from initial 53-man roster

Random musings from the Bears’ roster that will surely change:

  • Only two tight ends? Undrafted rookie Jake Tonges doesn’t get kept unless he can play both fullback and tight end, but he’s been working primarily as a fullback in the preseason. I have to think either James O’Shaughnessy returns (he was surprisingly released with a non-football illness designation) or another tight end is added from somewhere else.
  • Yo, are any of the wide receivers healthy? The Bears kept seven on their initial 53-man roster, but only three of them (Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis) were able to practice Tuesday evening. Head coach Matt Eberflus hinted that he feels good about getting Tajae Sharpe, Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. back in time for Week 1, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see another receiver added. 
  • Either Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley got a lot better this offseason or the Bears didn’t do enough to strengthen their cornerback unit. We’re about to find out.
  • Jack Sanborn. It was obvious he was going to make the team after the first preseason game. Question is, can he push for the starting SAM linebacker job now?
  • The Bears’ defensive line is a strength. They have experience with Robert Quinn, Angelo Blackson and Al-Quadin Muhammad. They have promising youth with Trevis Gipson, Khyiris Tonga and Dominique Robinson. But the most important player might be 3-technique Justin Jones. Can he stay healthy and tap into his unreached potential?
  • Some cut players to keep an eye on for the practice squad: WR Nsimba Webster, RB Darrynton Evans, LB DeMarquis Gates, TE Chase Allen, OL Dieter Eiselen, DL Trevon Coley, and DT Micah Dew-Treadway. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see offensive guard Michael Schofield return too. The Bears can keep up to six players on the 16-player practice squad without any limitation on accrued seasons. 

Best/Worst from Week 5 of the preseason

The best: Justin Fields’ performance in Cleveland. How could it be anything else?

The worst: We still have to wait 11 more days for the Bears’ season to actually start?

Final Word: Teven Jenkins

(Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

The last two weeks for Teven Jenkins have been a pleasure to witness. It has been one of the more remarkable training camp turnarounds I can remember in 12 years of covering this team. In fact, it probably ranks No. 1.

So why does it still feel like Jenkins is on the bubble even though he made the 53-man roster and currently projects as the Bears’ starting right guard?

“Me not knowing about what the future is about to be come today, and I still don’t know what my future is going to be because you could still get traded, released, anything, even though you made the 53-man roster,” Jenkins said Tuesday evening at Halas Hall. 

That’s the second time in the last week Jenkins has mentioned the word “trade” despite going through his most successful two-week stretch since he arrived in Lake Forest. Perhaps that’s because rumors continue to swirl from NFL insiders on television, but it’s also obvious the Bears haven’t given him any face-to-face guarantees. 

Clearly, Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus have been using some motivational tactics with Jenkins since camp began, and those tactics have apparently paid off. They probably aren’t in a hurry to give Jenkins a complete sense of comfort. 

Either that, or they are still trying to trade the guy. 

That seems like a stretch though, especially considering no one on the roster has played the right guard position better than Jenkins the last two weeks. He looks at home on the inside. He has played fast and physical. 

“Working in that telephone booth is a lot better for my career right now,” Jenkins said. “There’s a lot less room to be doing anything. You’re not really on an island. So I can be a lot more of a physical player.”

How the Bears handle Jenkins — both transactionally and mentally — in the next 11 days will be interesting. At some point, should they give him some peace of mind?

Asked if that makes a difference for a football player, Jenkins replied: “Yeah, it does. You start settling down a little bit more, you start believing in yourself a lot more, because you’ve got a lot more trust.”

And trusting yourself is a big deal in football. 

Thanks for trusting me with another edition of the Bears Things newsletter. You might want to check out the new CHGO football shirt we dropped yesterday.

Trust me, it’s worth the click. 

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