Bears will ruin or squander QB Justin Fields if he has to keep playing without help

The return of Chase Claypool, Teven Jenkins and Cody Whitehair over the final games would help, and other players like Cole Kmet, Khalil Herbert, Alex Leatherwood and Velus Jones need to produce.

SHARE Bears will ruin or squander QB Justin Fields if he has to keep playing without help
A photo of Bears quarterback Justin Fields running with the ball against the Bills on Saturday.

Justin Fields has been playing with a severely depleted group on the offensive line and at wide receiver.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Bears either will ruin quarterback Justin Fields or squander his talent if they keep throwing him out there without any help. The last two weeks, when Fields was left to fight the Eagles and Bills practically alone, foreshadowed what it’ll be like if the team never figures out its offensive line and never fortifies its core of playmakers.

The next two games will be the same, unless the Bears provide more of a supporting cast.

That can happen many ways. Ideally for Fields and the team, wide receiver Chase Claypool and offensive guards Teven Jenkins and Cody Whitehair will return from injuries in time to play Sunday against the Lions. That would be an instant upgrade for Fields, who played behind the Bears’ most hodgepodge offensive line of the season and was without his top three wide receivers in the loss to the Bills.

Claypool (knee), Jenkins (neck) and Whitehair (knee) each were out of practice all last week, but coach Matt Eberflus designated them as doubtful against the Bills rather than conclusively ruling them out. That’s the basis for the optimism that one more week might be enough.

Apart from that, help can come from elsewhere.

Tight end Cole Kmet was supposed to be, along with wide receiver Darnell Mooney, one of Fields’ best options in the passing game. Kmet looked like he finally was emerging in November, but he had just 52 yards on nine catches the last two games.

Running back Khalil Herbert was a firecracker for the Bears at six yards per carry before a hip injury landed him on injured reserve, and his return against the Bills was forgettable.

General manager Ryan Poles was so sure of his draft plan that he bypassed wide receiver with both of his second-round picks — albeit to address other glaring needs in the secondary — and chose Velus Jones in the third.

It took until Week 16 of his rookie season for Jones to show legitimate promise on offense, catching two passes for 52 yards against the Bills. That must be the start of something, as opposed to an aberration.

Offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood couldn’t have been more fortunate when the Raiders cut him a year after drafting him No. 17 overall. Not only did he get the new start he needed by going on waivers, but the team that claimed him was — and still is — desperate for anyone to cement starting jobs on the offensive line.

Nonetheless, he has failed to spur enough confidence among the Bears’ staff to get consistent playing time. He played just one snap against the Bills, even with the offensive line in ruins because of injuries.

A great quarterback must rise above his circumstances and elevate teammates who might otherwise be pedestrian, so that’s part of the criteria if the Bears are going to build their future around Fields. Quarterbacks who need everything to be perfectly in place for them to succeed are not special.

But the Bears have asked too much of Fields throughout this season. It’s a wonder that he has managed to develop at all without a solid offensive line or pass catchers. That’s the clearest sign that he’s headed toward greatness.

It also illustrates that there’s a cap on what he can do alone. He has established himself as the best running quarterback in the game and has been an efficient passer, but the team is still 3-12.

Even though the Lions and Vikings are a step down from the Eagles and Bills, Fields can’t beat them alone. And next season, the Bears can’t allow this situation to happen again.

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