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Midway points: Answering the Bears’ biggest questions after 9 games

The Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley breaks down the Bears’ first half of the season and previews what’s ahead:

Chicago Bears v Las Vegas Raiders
Matt Nagy coaches against the Raiders.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley breaks down the Bears’ first half of the season and previews what’s ahead:

The biggest question facing the Bears is:

Can they learn how to win? Justin Fields showing progress is essential to the franchise’s future, but winning is an important part of his growth. The Bears haven’t won a game in 5 ½ weeks, the third losing streak in as many years of at least four games. “It’s easy to say, ‘OK, well, you want to get better,’” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said. “But you can get better and lose the rest of these games — and that doesn’t feel like a success.”

The most impressive part of Justin Fields has been:

He played his best game of the year Week 8 against the 49ers — and then played an even better one in Week 9. Rookie growth is never perfectly linear — he’ll undoubtedly fall back and leap forward a few more times — but the last two weeks have been encouraging.

The most concerning part of Justin Fields has been:

He’s been sacked on 13.4 percent of his dropbacks, the worst mark in the NFL in 15 years. Getting shell-shocked as a rookie has harmed better quarterbacks than Fields over the years. The Bears better hope this doesn’t do any long-term physical or mental damage — and that he makes it through the season upright.

Is Matt Nagy doing a capable job?

No. His 3-6 Bears are 15th out of 16 NFC teams, ahead of only the Lions. But if Nagy can keep Fields on an undeniable upward trajectory over the next eight weeks — and can win a few games — he’ll have a chance to keep his job. George McCaskey’s vague mandate for “progress” allows for such wiggle room.

Midseason MVP:

Roquan Smith is so good, it’s boring. The linebacker’s side-to-side pass coverage skills are essential in the modern game, He’s one of only three Bears defenders to start every game this season, too. But how’s this for a dark horse runner-up: safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, who owns the Bears’ last three takeaways and has filled in admirably at a position depleted by injury.

Midseason disappointment:

Tarik Cohen hasn’t played a snap of football since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Week 3 of 2020. There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for the injury, but Cohen — by no fault of his own — has been out longer than even the most conservative estimates would allow. It’s an unfortunate development for the running back — whose offseason was compounded by the death of his twin brother — and for a team that needs all the explosive playmakers it can collect.

Record prediction over the final eight games:

4-4, with a surprise win at home against the Cardinals.