The Sun-Times’ Mark Potash breaks down the Bears’ first half of the season and previews what’s ahead:
The biggest question facing the Bears is:
Will Matt Nagy get Year 2 with Justin Fields? The rookie quarterback, while far from a finished product, looks like the real deal and a player who could be a dangerous weapon against even elite NFL teams in the right hands. With Fields coming off back-to-back games of significant improvement, the second half of the season is Nagy’s chance to prove that this offensive staff is the one to ultimately get Fields to max out.
The most impressive part of Justin Fields’ season has been:
The seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in crunch time against the Steelers. The drive was so efficient — just 66 seconds — that Nagy actually lamented in retrospect not taking more time off the clock. It was the first time the Bears had driven 70 yards or more in the final 4:00 for a touchdown to take the lead since Kyle Orton against the Falcons in 2008 (11 plays, 77 yards in the final 2:43 of a 22-20 loss). The pinpoint throws and escape-artist runs are impressive, but Fields’ fortitude in willing the Bears to a touchdown in the clutch against a quality defense is a better indicator of long-term success for the offense.
The most concerning part of Justin Fields’ season has been:
Fields gets hit too often, and puts himself at a higher risk for injury than he should. He’s been sacked an NFL-leading 29 times, but also still slides awkwardly at times and is still trying to break the habit of spinning away from defenders and subjecting himself to dangerous hits.
Is Matt Nagy doing a capable job?
No. As a CEO, “capable” is about the highest mark he could get. But he was hired to invigorate an offense. And nine games into his fourth season, the Bears are 29th in the NFL in scoring and 31st in total yards. And Nagy has given up play-calling for the second time. The Bears have to show significant improvement in the final eight games for Nagy to have a compelling argument to stick around.
Left tackle Jason Peters. It says everything about the Bears’ plight that their best offensive player was on a fishing boat in a lake in Texas two weeks into training camp. Roquan Smith is an elite player, but without Peters at left tackle, Justin Fields might be on injured reserve today.
Safety Eddie Jackson is ranked 78th among safeties by Pro Football Focus (Adrian Amos is seventh). Jackson might be better than he was last season, but still isn’t making the impact he’s paid to make. In seven games, Jackson has one forced fumble and one tackle-for-loss, no interceptions and no pass breakups.
Record prediction over the final eight games:
4-4. Justin Fields has the chance for a breakout second half, but the defense has become undependable. Still, you can never underestimate the mediocrity of the NFL.