Breaking down the Bears at the bye

What the Bears need to see from Justin Fields — and others — in the final four games of the season to go into 2023 with the arrow pointing up.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields has an 85.4 passer rating in 12 games this season — up from 73.2 last season.

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Answering the Bears’ biggest questions during the bye week:

What do the Bears need to see from Justin Fields in the last four games?

Take another step forward, especially in the passing game, against the Eagles and/or Bills — two top-10 defenses. And develop a better connection with Chase Claypool. If establishing Fields-Claypool chemistry in 2022 doesn’t matter, the Bears should not have traded a potential top-35 draft pick for him. They just should have waited and drafted a receiver at that spot.

Is Matt Eberflus doing a good job?

I feel the same way about Matt Eberflus as I do about Justin Fields — like the potential, seems to have laid a foundation for future success, but still need to see a lot more to be convinced he’ll take the Bears where previous coaches have not. Even with circumstances considered — rookies, trades, etc. — his defense has under-achieved.

What should the Bears do with a top-three draft pick?

The dream scenario would be to trade with a team desperate for a quarterback, still get a top 10 pick and acquire a 2023 first-round pick that ends up in the top-5. The 4-8 Panthers, currently with the No. 6 pick, could fill that bill.

As for need, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, according to draft analysts, looks like the best chance for a three-technique with the potential to have a Tommie Harris-like impact on Eberflus’ defense.

I’ll be watching this player the rest of the year ...

Left tackle Braxton Jones. By the eye test he has done well as a rookie starter. But at a premium position, Jones can’t just be good for a fifth-round draft pick. He has to actually be good — a consistent Pro Bowl level player — to be a foundation piece. That could be a big decision for Ryan Poles in the offseason.

Which surprise player has earned a 2023 starting job?

Rookie linebacker Jack Sanborn. As much as many of us were clamoring for the Bears to sign Roquan Smith, Sanborn seems like a more cost-efficient replacement in the context of Eberflus’ defense.

Sanborn has 54 tackles in 287 snaps in his five starts — more than Smith had in his final five games with the Bear (47 in 311 snaps). It’s a small sample-size for sure. But tackling is not an impact that generally fluctuates. And it still leaves room for the Bears to draft a player for the Shaquille Leonard play-making linebacker role in Eberflus’ defense.

What has been the biggest disappointment of the season?

The Bears’ defense not only has just 16 sacks (32nd and last in the NFL), but a league-low 34 quarterback hits — every other team has 48 or more. And they have just three takeaways in their last six games. Even with four rookie starters and a house-cleaning, more was expected of Eberflus’ defense.

How many games will the Bears win the rest of the way?

Maybe two, if the 10-2 Vikings are coasting in Week 18.

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