Perhaps if the Chicago Bears weren’t within the Thursday night time nationwide tv slot for the second time in 5 weeks, Justin Fields would have been in a position to give it a go towards the Carolina Panthers.
But coach Matt Eberflus introduced undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent will make his fourth consecutive begin, saying Fields is just not medically cleared to return from a dislocated proper thumb after one other restricted observe session Wednesday.
It’s a disgrace as a result of the final time Fields was in prime time, he threw 4 landing passes and accounted for 339 yards in a 40-20 drubbing of the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field. That effort got here per week after Fields additionally threw 4 landing passes in a loss to the Denver Broncos, changing into the primary quarterback in franchise historical past to do this in consecutive video games. Those eight TD passes account for practically 23% of Fields’ profession whole.
It’s a stable guess Fields will return for the Nov. 19 NFC North sport at Ford Field towards the Detroit Lions. At that time seven video games will stay in a season that started with intense deal with whether or not the previous first-round choose is certainly the franchise’s quarterback of the longer term.
It’s trying more and more unlikely the Bears will trip with Fields into 2024 and past, and it’s unlucky the thumb harm has value him a month to supply proof on the contrary.
Thirty-one begins into his profession, Fields stays affected by a few of the similar pitfalls that had been trigger for concern in his 2021 debut. He struggles to diagnose defenses and get the ball out in a well timed method, leading to too many pointless hits and unfavorable performs. This is the first difficulty that fouls up many younger quarterbacks.
General supervisor Ryan Poles prioritized bettering the offense round Fields to offer him one of the best probability to succeed — and to offer the entrance workplace a real measure of a participant it inherited from the earlier regime. The offensive line is considerably improved with proper guard Teven Jenkins lastly wholesome. The skill-position expertise, led by extensive receiver DJ Moore, tight finish Cole Kmet and a deep backfield, is greater than sufficient to win with.
Surely Poles, his employees and the coaches will weigh everything of Fields’ three seasons on the finish of the yr when plotting a route for the franchise. Yes, which means Fields nonetheless has time to affect the result. A call on the fifth-year choice for 2025 in Fields’ contract is due by May 2. With the Bears proudly owning what initiatives to be two excessive first-round picks, it’s straightforward to determine the plan will embrace choosing a brand new quarterback.
There was a flash of enchancment when Fields had the eight touchdowns and just one interception towards the Broncos and Commanders, however the subsequent trip towards the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 15, he was clobbered from behind by outdoors linebacker D.J. Wonnum on the primary snap of the sport.
The Vikings crowded the road with six defenders, and the Bears had been in an empty formation and blocking to the suitable, creating an obvious alternative on the blind aspect for a free rusher — the quarterback’s accountability. Fields had Moore and fullback Khari Blasingame open for brief good points on the entrance aspect. He hesitated, held the ball, began to show to the again aspect and was sacked.
“Half the time, they blitz everybody,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy stated the following week. “Half the time, they don’t. But additionally you get to see — we had been in 21 personnel (two operating backs, one tight finish, two extensive receivers) — so you bought to see form of what their plan was. Were they going to go large, or had been they going to go sub-defense? They went sub-defense.
“Justin did a great job. He checked the protection. He just didn’t react the right way. When you make the protection and you know you have the guy free, you’ve got to drift right and throw it. And he didn’t do that. But he did the hard part. He recognized the defense that they had never shown us. He handled it with the right protection adjustment. He just didn’t handle the next part of it right.”
The Vikings sacked him twice within the first 5 snaps and knocked him out of the sport within the third quarter with the thumb harm when he tried to purchase time — holding the ball for greater than six seconds towards a three-man rush — and was hit from behind.
It appeared eerily like Fields’ first profession begin towards the Cleveland Browns in Week 3 of 2021, when coach Matt Nagy designed a sport plan to assist Fields determine the coverages pre-snap. It was an entire failure. The offensive line was overrun, Fields was sacked 9 occasions and the offense managed a meager 47 yards on 42 snaps.
“I heard about the criticism of Luke Getsy: ‘Why do you make that call?’” stated one veteran scout who did an in depth evaluate of the Bears earlier this season. “Because it’s a profitable name. The quarterback simply has to get the ball out of his palms. It’s a great play. They’re in off, comfortable man protection. They’re all open. He pulls the ball down. I don’t know what that a part of it’s.
“He’s gotten a bit more durable stepping up into the frenzy, staying within the pocket and stepping up and letting that ball go towards duress. He’s been hit within the mouth just a few occasions, which we didn’t see previously. Really, he was all the time backing out or escaping. He obtained higher at that after which towards Minnesota he regressed. There’s simply no consistency in decision-making capability, instincts within the pocket so far as the place to maneuver to, the place it’s coming from, pre-snap reads, processing what he sees pre-snap to post-snap — there’s a disconnect in there someplace.
“I want to like him. The guy has a huge arm and he’s a rare athlete. The rest of it hasn’t come together. Not on a consistent basis. Won’t turn the ball loose. Pulls the ball down on simple reads.”
A member of Nagy’s teaching employees confirmed that the plan towards the Browns two years in the past was designed to simplify issues for Fields and supply a street map, if you’ll, of the place the ball wanted to go. In the quick aftermath, it was obvious that technique bombed and there merely wasn’t a number of assist round Fields on the roster.
“Matt was trying to give Justin a clean picture,” the assistant stated. “Thought it would help him see the issues easier if everyone was removed from the box. In hindsight, it didn’t really matter.”
Say what you need about Nagy, however what the Bears did towards the Vikings in Week 6 wasn’t something out of the atypical and was designed to assist thwart a pressure-happy protection.
Eventually, a younger quarterback has to show he can play from the pocket and ship the ball on time. Only so many issues will be outlined by design and play calling. An offense can not merely stay with the quarterback on the sting of the protection, the place Fields has proved able to large performs.
There are 5 – 6 situations a sport during which the quarterback has to make a big-time throw from the pocket when the image has modified from pre-snap to post-snap. He has to seek out an open goal and ship the ball. For the highest 10 quarterbacks within the league, that’s routine.
The scout stated one different main takeaway he had from finding out Fields was that he’s reluctant to throw the ball in the midst of the sphere, declaring the large performs towards the Commanders to Moore got here alongside the boundary.
“He will not throw a post,” the scout stated. “He has pulled that ball down repeatedly in terms of open receivers over the center of the sphere. It occurred to him towards Minnesota. He turned down three completely different wide-open posts towards Kansas City. Stared at them and whether or not he can’t learn the security’s shoulder place, I don’t know. The security is turned away from the receiver, he’s turned his shoulders to the sideline and the put up goes proper up the center of the sphere. There’s no manner the security could make the play. He pulls it down. Did it thrice.
“I don’t know if the majority of his picks have happened just over that linebacker level and he’s not confident lofting it or he’s had some safety picks. He won’t turn it loose there. Now, the boundary, that’s where he’s comfortable.”
The Bears have been clear that Fields would be the starter when he’s wholesome. This is the tenth sport he’ll miss due to accidents in his profession, plus another for sickness. The final seven video games is an effective stretch for him to indicate the place he stands three years into his profession. Of these seven opponents — together with two video games towards the Lions — solely the Vikings (18th) and Arizona Cardinals (seventeenth) rank within the backside half of the league in move protection.
Maybe Fields can stack some spectacular outings like he had towards the Broncos and Commanders, however historical past tells you it’s extremely uncommon for quarterbacks with as a lot expertise as he has to go from being so inconsistent to inspiring confidence. Especially for a group just like the Bears that seemingly will likely be choosing close to the highest of the draft.
And a Bagent-led victory towards the 1-7 Panthers would enhance the possibilities of Carolina’s choose that the Bears personal winding up at No. 1 or No. 2.