7 key storylines for Bears over final two months of 2021 season
Most of it centers on rookie QB Justin Fields, but there is plenty else to consider as the Bears head into the second half of their season.
With the Bears basically at the halfway point of their season heading into their game against the Ravens on Sunday, here’s a look at some of the key storylines to watch over the final two months:
The biggest question facing the Bears is:
How far can Justin Fields go in the next two months? The Bears have a lot of issues to resolve throughout their roster and the organization itself, but their success next season and beyond hinges hugely on Fields. If he keeps ascending and can be a top-10 quarterback next season, everything around him will improve. He is seven starts in, so this is right around the time he should be hitting his stride.
The most impressive part of Justin Fields’ season has been:
His ability to strike on deep balls. He has 20 completions of 20-plus yards, whereas the Bears had 42 last season and 39 in 2019 with veteran quarterbacks. It has been a glaring missing piece from the offense, and Fields appears poised to establish it as a regular threat. He had six such passes against the Steelers, including a crucial 39-yarder to Allen Robinson with two minutes left.
The most concerning part of Justin Fields’ season has been:
The Bears mismanaged Fields from the start and they seem to be figuring it out only now — six months after they drafted him. They failed to recognize how polished he was and give him an opportunity to compete for the starting job. Then, when coach Matt Nagy was forced to play Fields because of injury, he was totally inept at crafting an offense around him. He and his staff have a lot to prove over the next two months.
Is Matt Nagy doing a capable job?
No, for all of the reasons listed above and because his offense has ranked near the bottom of the NFL for three consecutive seasons. He has eight games left to prove his competency.
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn. What a turnaround for Quinn, who looked like an absolute dud of a free-agent signing with two sacks in 548 snaps after agreeing to a five-year, $70 million deal. Now the Bears are glad they have him. He leads the team with 6.5 sacks, which is 12th in the NFL.
Tight end Jimmy Graham. This is more on Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. Rather than get out of Graham’s contract and use that cap space to address problems in the secondary, the Bears kept him for essentially $10 million. That looked sensible after Graham posted 50 catches for 456 yards and eight touchdowns last season while remaining a strong red-zone threat, but the Bears have barely used him this season. He has played just 23% of the snaps and has six targets.
Record prediction over the final eight games:
3-5. They’ll beat the Lions (0-8-1), Giants (3-6) and Vikings (4-5), but no good teams. They might sneak one against the Seahawks to make it 4-4, but Russell Wilson will probably be settled in and seeking a playoff spot at that point.