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Hoge's Bears Things: Searching for the improvements that Matt Eberflus saw

Adam Hoge Avatar
September 19, 2023

Good morning, Bears fans.

Let’s get straight to business on this Tuesday morning…

With Matt Eberflus insisting that the Bears got better from Week 1 to Week 2, I spent most of my Monday searching the film for evidence of improvement.

On one hand, it’s easy to roll your eyes at the notion — after all, the Bears were so bad in Week 1 against the Packers that it would have been very hard to be worse against the Bucs. On the other hand, it is a long season and this is still a very young team.

So what did I find on the film?

The Bears generated more pressure. They just didn’t finish. With defensive coordinator Alan Williams out for personal reasons, it was interesting to see Eberflus get more creative with the pressure, frequently sending slot corner Greg Stroman on blitzes. At one point, giant nose tackle Andrew Billings even dropped into coverage. Flus mixed it up and generated more pressure on Baker Mayfield, but the Bears still finished with zero sacks. Yannick Ngakoue has to be better, finishing off sacks when given the chance. Still, with improved technique — Eberflus said every quarterback has a different strike zone — the sack numbers should improve as the season goes along.

Ball! Man, there were opportunities to grab the football. And it probably would have been a different game had Jaquan Brisker not dropped a pick-6 opportunity on the second play of the game. Down 13-10, Jaylon Johnson “peanut punched” tight end David Wells (not former pitcher David Wells) and the ball bounced inches away from Rasheem Greene, who was slow to react. The very next play was a 32-yard touchdown to Mike Evans. It was probably the biggest moment in the game. You could even argue that the Bears missed a scoop-and-score opportunity on the blocked field goal. If Jaylon Jones simply uses his speed to outrun the holder and kicker to the ball (instead of trying to cut them off, which caused him to fall down) perhaps that’s a touchdown. Instead, the offense went three-and-out with the Bears holding a 7-3 lead. 

Chase Claypool’s effort was much better. But that doesn’t mean he had a good game. The blocking was still inconsistent. And he ran at least two wrong routes. I still think the Bears are asking him to do things he’s not great at. Equanimeous St. Brown is simply a better blocker and more trustworthy wide receiver, even if he’s not as dynamic. The Bears need more from all wide receivers not named DJ Moore. Hopefully that improvement comes. 

The quarterback was hard to evaluate. The good was a lot better than Week 1. Unfortunately, the bad was worse than Week 1. The panic over Fields’ development is warranted. I maintain that the floor should be much higher than it is right now. There’s already plenty of evidence on his NFL tape that he’s better than we’ve seen these first two weeks. In my opinion, it’s mostly on the coaching staff to raise that floor right now, much like they did with their in-season adjustments last year. From there, it’s on Fields to play better.

The offensive line was pretty good. Despite an ugly stretch in the middle of the game. Left tackle Braxton Jones was on an island a lot and won those battles consistently. Through two games, Darnell Wright looks like a stud at right tackle. There have been some rookie moments, but there’s no question the kid can play. And on the inside, the Bears did a pretty good job against Vita Vea. Lucas Patrick played much better, although the snaps can still be more consistent. Now, if they can just clean up the penalties.

The kicking game is strong. Cairo Santos and Trenton Gill have been lights out. Other than the one long punt return allowed against the Packers, the Bears have been very good on special teams. The kicking game can swing games quickly and it’s good to know this unit should continue to be solid while the offense and defense does its part to improve.

So is the glass half full or half empty? If you’re Eberflus, you have no choice but to look at it as half full and work to improve each week, as he insisted they’d do on Monday. But if you’re general manager Ryan Poles, it’s probably more wise to look at the empty part of the glass and try to fill it. 

It will be very hard to leave Kansas City this week with a win, but it is possible to come home feeling more confident about the rest of the season. And of course, that starts with the quarterback. 

Up Next: We have a big week at CHGO. Quarterback guru Tim Jenkins will join us today at Noon CT to tell us what Justin Fields can and cannot fix. Wednesday, Brian Baldinger will begin weekly appearances on the show throughout the season. And we have a big surprise to reveal later in the week. Hang with us, Bears fans. We’ll see you at Noon CT on The CHGO Bears Podcast.    

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