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Is Justin Fields being wasted in Chicago?

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Bears overreactions: Is Fields being wasted in Chicago? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Week 1’s overreactions brought sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns after the Bears’ win over the San Francisco 49ers.

This week’s edition gives us the other side of the coin following the Bears’ deflating 27-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Quarterback Justin Fields only threw the ball 11 times and only registered 17 dropbacks.

Naturally, there’s some level of panic about the quarterback situation, which is where we start this week’s overreactions column.

Let’s dive in:

Overreaction? Yes, for now

It’s fair to frame all the Fields’ tweets I got as: Will the Bears waste him?

The concern over Fields’ future was understandably the biggest issue after the second-year quarterback threw just 11 passes in the loss to the Packers.

On Monday, head coach Matt Eberflus was adamant that the Bears still “trust” Fields to throw the ball more.

But when a coaching staff only asks you to throw the ball 11 times despite trailing by two scores for 35 minutes of the game, that says something. In my opinion, it says they have a lack of trust in his ability to win with his arm.

Yes, the Bears were running the ball effectively. But in the modern NFL, your franchise quarterback has to be able to throw you back into games.

Fields has the arm talent to do so. That’s never been the issue.

I wrote a long piece about the narrow road teams have to travel to get a highly drafted quarterback from a prospect with potential to star. There are many pitfalls teams fall into, and Fields just might have found himself in the wrong situation.

It’s fair to wonder if the Bears are wasting Fields’ talent. In the offseason, Ryan Poles didn’t address the offensive line or skill positions effectively. It doesn’t appear that Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy trust Fields enough to open up the offense.

A lot of signs point to the Fields-Bears marriage not working out.

But I will caution everyone to have some patience. Context matters. We’re only two games into the season. The wide-zone offense normally takes several weeks to start clicking.

Eberflus said he views the passing game as a concern but believes it can keep making steady incremental improvements.

The Bears have to start trusting Fields to throw the ball. How will they truly know if he is or isn’t the franchise quarterback they need if they don’t?

Overreaction? Where do I start? The answer is yes and no.

Let’s go down the list.

Eberflus and Alan Williams’ defensive scheme can absolutely be effective in the modern NFL. The Indianapolis Colts had solid defenses in the last three seasons under Eberflus’ watch. Were they elite? No. But they were good and gave the team a chance to win. The scheme works. The issue is that the Bears are young at a lot of positions and have veteran placeholders at others.

Outside of Robert Quinn, Jaylon Johnson, and Eddie Jackson, the key defensive players are Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker, Justin Jones, Nicholas Morrow, and Travis Gipson. (We’ll get to Roquan.) Brisker and Gordon are rookies. Gipson is an ascending player but is still young. Jones and Morrow are veteran guys brought in on short-term deals. It’s unlikely they’ll be here for the long term.

As for Roquan, there are issues. He had a decent game in the opener but was a relative non-factor Sunday against the Packers’ run game. Given his speed and talent, Smith should have been all over the field in Green Bay, blowing up the Packers’ ground game. He wasn’t.

Should the Bears move him from the WILL to the MIKE? Is it an effort issue? A scheme fit? It’s unclear, but he hasn’t looked like the elite linebacker he wants to be paid as through two games. Not an overreaction and certainly worth monitoring.

Moving on to Kyler Gordon.

No, Gordon isn’t too slow to play corner. I’d say the Bears need to leave him on the outside this season, an area he has played well through two games. The nickel spot appears to be too much at the moment. It’s a lot to ask a rookie to juggle both positions, and it’s clear teams will target him with the pass and the run when he’s in the slot.

As addressed above, the Bears should throw more. Throwing to set up the run can be beneficial. But they should absolutely lean on Montgomery as much as possible.

Overreaction? Maybe not

Man, it’s already getting late early for Cole Kmet, isn’t it? He has the tools and potential to be a top-tier, two-way tight end. But eventually, you either become that, or you are what you are.

The Bears need to try and get Kmet involved more in the passing game. I can’t say he’s not good when he has received *checks notes* two goals in two games.

On Mooney’s end, the Bears just haven’t gotten him involved. Part of that is the bad weather in Week 1 and the decision to lean on the run in Week 2. But Mooney is their best skill player, and they have been uninventive trying to get him the ball so far. A lot of that falls on Getsy and Fields. Mooney talked the WR1 talk in camp, and the Bears need to treat him as such.

For now, Mooney and Kmet get a pass. But the Bears need them to force the offense to get them involved.

They are too valuable to be non-factors on Sunday.

Overreaction? Yes, but not far off

I don’t think Poles have any say in who plays on Sundays. He has left that to Eberflus and the staff.

But Eberflus and Poles did bring in Lucas Patrick as a key, culture-changing piece of their first offseason.

They didn’t draft Jenkins. So it’s not far-fetched to say their bias toward Patrick has played into the right guard rotation.

For my two cents, I think Jenkins has far outplayed Patrick at RG in the first two games. They should stick with him. He’s their most physically gifted lineman.

Overreaction? No.

I’ll start by saying this: There is no tanking in the NFL. At least, not in the NBA sense. The players and coaches are going to give everything they have to win. It’s too physical of a game to half-ass.

Now, the way to ensure a top draft pick in the NFL is by making sure the roster you trot out lacks the talent to spoil that vision. Did Poles do that on purpose? I doubt it. He inherited a horrible cap situation, and this was the best path forward for his rebuilding vision.

But, if you’re contending the Bears should want to flop this season for a high pick, then I don’t disagree.
If the Bears exit the season knowing they have a good coach in Eberflus, a quarterback in Fields, and a top pick, that’s a massive win. Of course, that top pick would also serve a purpose if they believe they still need a quarterback this offseason.

Either way, I’m with you on the top-pick idea. A fluke 9-8 run at the No. 7 seed does no one any good.

Overreaction? Yes

A great place to end.

I’ve been on the record saying Getsy is a rising star in the NFL coaching ranks and could very well be a head coach in two years.

But he is a first-time play-caller at the NFL level with a young quarterback and limited skill talent. The scheme he runs takes time to find its groove.

I expect him to trust Fields to throw more over the next two weeks. The more significant issue is the pass protection and the Bears’ inability to get Mooney and Kmet involved early. Both those things have to change for this offense to click.

Let’s not throw Luke Getsy overboard just yet.

As for Gordon, he has rare movement ability and is sticky in coverage. Rookie corners often struggle initially. I do think he’d be better served as just an outside corner this season. But we are not on #BustWatch yet.

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