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The performance of the Bears' offense in 2023's preseason has softened a lot of my hope and excitement about the upcoming season. I was hoping for a major turn around, and for the Bears to be playoff contenders in a relatively weak NFC North. But now, I'm not so sure. I doubt we'll see a completely pathetic flop of a season like last year, in which the Bears earned the number 1 overall draft pick. But I now see a winning season as more of a stretch.

Put simply, the Bears' offense showed a lot of explosive promise in its 3 preseason games, but it didn't really show a lot of general competence. Justin Fields went 3 of 3 for 129 yards and 2 TDs in the preseason opener, with TD passes to DJ Moore and Khalil Herbert. But both of those touchdowns (and the vast majority of those yards) came from Moore and Herbert breaking screen passes behind the line, and running halfway across the field for scores. It was all Moore and Herbert; not Fields. All in all, a lot of the rest of the Bears' preseason play showed a lot of the same struggles that we saw last year.

Protection didn't last very long, and Fields had to run on multiple occasions, and also took a few hits. Neither the run game, nor the pass game, looked particularly efficient, and the first team offense saw multiple 3-and-outs. But worst of all, the injury bug has already taken a toll. Both guards, Teven Jenkins and rookie Darnell Wright, missed games with injuries. Jenkins has already shown himself to be injury-prone, and now it looks like Wright might have problems with injuries as well. Both players are being evaluated on a day-by-day or week-to-week basis, so it's possible they will both be ready for the regular season opener in 2 weeks. But even if they are healthy in the opener, how long with that health last?

Dante Pettis, the presumptive punt returner, has also already been placed on injured reserve. So it looks like Velus Jones and/or rookie Tyler Scott will be competing for that job. Jones didn't play much in the preseason due to his own injury, and Scott got plenty of reps at returning punts. He didn't have much of an opportunity to show what he can do in that role, however, since few (if any) of the punts he fielded were returnable. But the important thing is that he held onto the ball. He did have a big kick return in the final preseason game against the Bills, in which a shoe-string trip-up from the kicker was the only thing that kept him out of the endzone. Another sign of potential explosiveness.

DJ Moore TD
Photo credit: Charles REx Arbogast, AP
D.J. Moore and others showed explosive potential in the preseason.
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After the Bears' embarrassing Prime Time loss to the Commanders a few weeks ago, I hopped onto my blog to complain about the team's offensive design philosophy and play-calling, and called for the Bears to either fire their offensive coordinator, or trade Justin Fields in exchange for a better pocket-passing quarterback. I also outlined my opinions for the types of plays that I thought the Bears should be running with Justin Fields.

Now, I admit, I'm not a football coach. I don't think I'm knowledgeable enough about football to actually be a coach -- at least not at anything above the high school or pee wee level. I'm no football genius over here. I would be fully willing to admit that the Bears could probably try what I recommended, and they'd still suck, and it would just prove that I have no clue what I'm talking about.

But starting with the Patriots game the following week, the Bears have been doing almost exactly what I recommended that they do. And it didn't make the offense incrementally better; it made the offense considerably better. The Bears came out in that Patriots game, and almost right from the start, they were running designed bootleg and rollout passes, read options, designed quarterback runs, and play action. They've also been incorporating a heavy dose of screen passes to their speedy wide receivers to help make up for their mediocre route-running. Ever since implementing these changes, the offense has looked genuinely good. The Bears have almost doubled their points per game, from 16.7 points per game in the first 6 weeks, to over 31 points per game in the three games since.

Justin Fields rollout vs Patriots
Photo credit: NBC Sports
The Bears have recently started executing an offensive gameplan closer to what I expected from the team.

If the Bears' coaches had been calling these sorts of plays, and getting this level of execution from the start of the season, they might actually still be in the playoff hunt. This average of over 30 points per game would have been enough to beat every opponent in those first 6 weeks. If the offense were playing like this early in the season, the Bears would definitely have beaten the Commanders, probably would have beaten the Giants, and might have been able to eke out wins against the Packers or Vikings. Instead of being 3-6, being mostly out of playoff contention, and trading away 2 of their 4 best defensive talents in exchange for draft capital, the Bears could potentially be 5-4 and looking to acquire veteran talent to make their own playoff push.

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With every new coaching staff or general manager for the Chicago Bears, I think they can't possibly be more disappointing and embarrassing than the last. But somehow, this organization always finds a way. Ever since firing Lovie Smith (and aside from one stand-out season in 2018), the Bears have been a slow-motion train wreck and can't seem to do anything right.

Drafting Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in 2021 seemed like a slam dunk. But the Bears have squandered the pick with coaching staffs who seem completely unwilling to play to Justin Fields' strengths, and the offense has floundered.

I get that it's Fields' second year, and the Bears just hired a new coach and are in a rebuilding year. I've tried to temper my expectations and be patient. But it's hard to remain patient when there is a complete lack of any signs of development or forward progress. This is one of the worst offenses in the league, and it seems to be getting worse.

Justin Fields frustrated
Photo credit: Micheal Reaves, Getty Images
I'd be frustrated too if I were Justin Fields and have to put up Eberflus' and Getsy's awful play-calling.

It would be easy to blame Fields, and say that he's just a bad player and a bust. And yes, he does have some mechanical and accuracy issues to clean up, and he also needs to make decisions faster. It's just his second year; those things will hopefully come in time. But I don't think it's that simple. Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy are refusing to take advantage of Justin Fields' physical talents. He runs a 4.44-second 40-yard dash. He is one of the fastest players on the team, and one of the fastest players on the field. Yet the Bears are not calling any designed QB runs, or read options, or even much in the way of rollout passes or designed bootlegs to get him out of the pocket where he excels as a dual-threat passer. They did a little bit of rolling out here and there in the loss to the Commanders, and were generally successful. So why aren't they doing more of it, especially in critical situations?

In the loss to the Commanders, Fields ran 12 times for 88 yards, and almost scored 2 TDs on the ground. Yet I don't think a single one of those runs was a designed QB run or read option. When he gets outside the pocket, it's also rarely because the play was a designed rollout. Usually, it's because he's flushed out by the pass rush and lack of an open receiver. Yet these plays are often his most successful, as both a passer and a runner. Some of his best highlights of the year have started with him getting outside the pocket.

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The Chicago Bears really hit it out of the park with the 2021 draft. What's funny is that this draft mirrors the Bears' dumbfounding 2017 draft, but with an almost polar opposite outlook. In 2017, the Bears infamously traded up one spot to take Mitch Trubisky with the number 2 overall pick. At the time, Bears fans and sports pundits were scratching their heads wondering what the heck Ryan Pace was thinking, as Trubisky wasn't even projected to be the best QB in the draft, let alone the second best player overall. With the gift of hindsight, the Bears' pick looks even worse considering that both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were both available, and neither was drafted in the top 10. Other notable players from that draft whom the Bears passed on drafting include Jamal Adams (pick 6 to the Jets), Christian McCaffery (pick 8 to the Panthers), Marshon Lattimore (pick 11 to the Sants), and Evan Engram (pick 23 to the Giants).

Photo by Chicago Bears
The Bears got a steal at the 11th overall pick in quarterback Justin Fields from Ohio State.

The Bears once again traded up to select a QB in the first round. Many analysts listed Justin Fields as the 3rd best QB in the draft, but also acknowledged that the top 3 positions were close to being a toss-up. Fields could easily have been the third overall pick to the 49ers, but San Francisco opted to take Trey Lance instead. This meant that Fields was still available at pick 11, after both the Broncos and Eagles passed on selecting him. The Bears traded up with the Giants to select Fields 11th overall. Like I said, the situation resembles the 2017 draft, except instead of trading up one space to reach for a QB who everyone expected would be available much later, the Bears patiently waited to steal a top talent who had slipped to a later pick. Sure the Bears gave up their first-round pick for next year's draft, but they got a much better value from it this time around.

The Bears had a similar opportunity in the second round, trading up with the Panthers to take offensive tackle Teven Jenkins with the 7th pick of the second round. Jenkins was projected to be a first-round talent, but slipped to the second round. Once again, the Bears got excellent value for their pick. Fields may sit behind Nick Foles and/or Andy Dalton for a period of time, but Jenkins will likely be a started in week 1 (especially since the Bears promptly cut veteran tackle Charles Leno Jr. after drafting Jenkins). And even if Fields does sit behind one of the veterans, I fully expect that he'll be starting by the end of the season.

Not only are both Fields and Jenkins excellent picks in their own right (and excellent value), but they also compliment each other well: an elite passer and an elite pass protector. The fact that both slipped to later picks (or rounds) will also potentially mean that both will be playing with a chip on their shoulders.

Photo by Brett Deering, Getty Images
Fields can likely feel safe with offensive tackle Teven Jenkins blocking his blind side.
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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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