When the Chicago Bears traded up to draft Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick two years ago, fans in the Windy City were ecstatic, believing that their savior had arrived. All the team needed to do now was mentor him up, give him some protection and weapons, and let him fly. With less than a month until the start of Fields’ second season, the Bears have done none of that, opting to continue building their defense — while at the same time, neglecting the needs of their young stars on that side as well — and shoving their franchise quarterback to the side.
“Hey, did you build my receiving corps?” asks Justin Fields.
“We let Allen Robinson go, and we got you N’Keal Harry, Bryon Pringle, and Equanimeous St. Brown. Oh, we also drafted a receiver in the third round. You’re welcome.” replies the Bears’ front office.
“What about my offensive line?” ponders Fields.
“We used a fifth-rounder, two sixths, and a seventh on some depth pieces. Where’s our thank you?” exclaims the front office.
Wow, guys! You really did a bang-up job surrounding Fields with help, and you are actively trying to shop second-year tackle Teven Jenkins as well, despite him being arguably your best run blocker from a year ago? I know you have Riley Reiff now, but seriously, he’s not even worth considering keeping around after you used a second-round pick on him? He’s that hopeless? Incredible. Your front office deserves the slowest of claps, the firmest of handshakes, and the fakest of smiles.
All of the issues fans thought the Bears would have this season were on full display in their second preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks front seven is not a dominant pass-rushing unit. In fact, arguably their best pass rusher, Shelby Harris, didn’t play at all in Justin Fields’ lone drive. In all fairness, a few of the Bears’ starting offensive linemen didn’t play either. Neither starting center Lucas Patrick nor starting right guard Michael Schofield III were on the line for that drive, but the line still consisted of rookie fifth-round tackle Braxton Jones, who needed help from Khalil Herbert or a tight end in order to handle his assignment on most plays I watched; starting left guard Cody Whitehair; backup center Sam Mustipher; Teven Jenkins at right guard; and backup left tackle Larry Borom at right tackle. That’s three of your five starters, plus Jenkins, against Quinton Jefferson, Al Woods, Poona Ford, and Darrell Taylor. That shouldn’t be as one-sided as it was, yet the Seahawks defense was able to get pressure on, by my count, three of eight pass plays (37.5 percent).
To put that in perspective, the Buffalo Bills got pressure on opposing quarterbacks on 30.8 percent of pass plays last year, the highest rate in the NFL. The most pressured quarterback (percentage-wise) was the Jets’ Zach Wilson, who faced pressure on 30.6 percent of his dropbacks. I know it’s a small sample size, but it’s still not a good look against a weak, not even full force, Seattle pass rush.
Even worse, of the five plays where Fields wasn’t pressured, two were play-action rollouts to Fields’ weak side (aka plays designed to give the quarterback room to throw using misdirection) and two were designed catch-and-release throws to Mooney on a screen and Herbert in the flat, where the defense didn’t have time to create pressure. That leaves one play, the very first pass play of the night for Fields, a tight end screen to Cole Kmet, as the only play where Fields was not hurried or pressured without scheming to avoid the pass rush.
Contrary to their personnel decisions in recent years, I’d like to think the Bears want to keep Fields around for several years. Yet, at this rate, I wouldn’t be shocked if Fields gets the Joe Burrow treatment. I understand that might be a compelling reality given Cincinnati’s success last year, but trust me, the Bengals’ strategy of opting not to protect Burrow and praying he doesn’t get hurt again, usually doesn’t play out as well as it did, and wouldn’t you know it, they opted to spend this entire offseason building a new offensive line to make sure Burrow stays standing this year.
At least with the Bengals, they gave Burrow a great wide receiver in Ja’Marr Chase. The Bears gave Fields… Velus Jones. Every opportunity the Bears have had to set Fields up for success, they’ve fallen flat on their face. This isn’t a good team. This won’t be a good offense, and it’s a shame, because despite facing constant pressure, Fields didn’t look bad against Seattle. He deserves better.