Bears QB Justin Fields trends toward return, but Matt Eberflus holds off on his status

Rookie Tyson Bagent has started in Fields’ place the last four games. Fields is approaching the one-month mark since his injury.

SHARE Bears QB Justin Fields trends toward return, but Matt Eberflus holds off on his status
A photo of Justin Fields on the sideline during a game.

Fields was on the sideline the last four games because of a dislocated thumb.

AP Photos

Everything points toward Bears quarterback Justin Fields returning from his dislocated right thumb Sunday against the Lions.

Fields has been throwing for a week and a half and practiced Monday with his throwing hand lightly taped as the Bears came off their extended break. He is coming up on one month of recovery since the injury.

‘‘He’s in a good spot,’’ coach Matt Eberflus said. ‘‘In terms of him throwing the ball, it looks to be good.’’

Eberflus was more evasive than Fields as he dodged a string of questions after practice to maintain secrecy, declining to say whether Fields has been medically cleared or what his feedback about his injury has been. Maybe someday the focus on keeping everything mysterious at Halas Hall will lead to victories.

Eberflus said ‘‘we’ll know exactly where we’re gonna be’’ by Wednesday, and that’s no coincidence because it’s the first day the NFL requires him to give injury updates. He insisted the Bears ‘‘just need more time’’ to decide whether Fields is ready to come back or whether they should stick with rookie Tyson Bagent this week.

But he had no problem laying out what a Fields-centric offense will look like.

The Bears went to a quick, conservative passing game when Bagent took over, and some elements of that should translate to Fields’ return. But Fields has a much stronger arm and can run like no other quarterback.

‘‘The offense is based on the talents that we have available to us,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘We’re gonna [tailor] it a little bit for Justin. We’re going to bring back the quarterback runs and the keepers [and] the different things that we’ve done that are effective and go from there.’’

While the Bears have been averse to running Fields at times, they seem to be over that hesitation. It’s an essential piece of his skills. Bagent scrambled capably at times, but Fields brings a completely different threat. He has four runs of 55 yards or longer in his career.

When Fields comes back, he’ll resume his pursuit of becoming the Bears’ franchise quarterback, and the odds against him are mountainous. Not only has there been too much inconclusive evidence in his first 2œ seasons, but his first four games are against the Lions (twice), Vikings and Browns. All of them have winning records. The Lions and Vikings have league-average defenses, and the Browns’ is elite.

To thrive in that scenario, Fields needs to take a hard look at how he has been playing and make improvements where needed. Eberflus said Fields and his coaches have been analyzing his first six games with that goal while he has been sidelined.

Fields’ six games before getting hurt were all over the place, a continuation of his first two seasons. His potential is undeniable, but he has yet to show it consistently.

He was one of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks in the first three weeks, including a blowout loss to the Chiefs in which he managed only 99 yards passing. He erupted for 335 yards and four touchdown passes against the Broncos but committed brutal turnovers as the game fell apart for the Bears.

Fields followed that with another four-touchdown game to beat the Commanders, but he sputtered the next week with 58 yards on 6-for-10 passing against the Vikings before getting hurt in the third quarter.

‘‘Anytime a guy performs at a high level, that’s what your mark is,’’ Eberflus said, specifically referring to how Fields played against the Commanders. ‘‘You want to always shoot for that.’’

He declined to say which aspects Fields needs to sharpen when he comes back, but he didn’t need to. They’re obvious.

Fields must be more decisive in the pocket, which will help him avoid drive-killing sacks. He was sacked 24 times — the third-most in the league — through Week 6; Bagent has been sacked five times in five games (four starts). Some of that is a result of the offensive line playing better, but some of it is on Fields for holding the ball too long.

Throwing accuracy and ball security are concerns, too, and any lingering issue with his thumb will be tough to navigate in those departments. The Bears don’t have enough talent to overcome turnovers.

Fields needs to get back as soon as possible to knock down those doubts. The Bears need him on the field to evaluate whether they can win with him. And, assuming he’s back Sunday, they have only seven games left.

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