The Chicago Bears are coming off their bye week at 3-6, and head into an 8 game stretch with tough opponents with no back-to-back home or away games. Here are 7 goals for the team in the second half of the season.
Let Fields Cook
When Justin Fields first started, the Bears went with a conservative run-heavy gameplan. They didn’t want to put too much on his plate, and they wanted the strong runningbacks to win their games. But over the last two weeks, Fields has gained more and more trust from the coaches, opening up the field for them and allowing them to call plays to take shots down the field. Fields went into the bye with his two best games back to back, including a 103 yard rushing performance against San Francisco, followed by a career high 291 yards passing against a top defense in Pittsburgh, where he led what should’ve been a game-winning drive. Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor, who may be on the hot seat, will need to continue to get these big games from Fields in order to retain their jobs and get wins, by calling more deep shots over the middle and less hitches.
Work on Fields chemistry with Allen Robinson
Fields has built pretty good chemistry with Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. But he still seems to be figuring things out with Allen Robinson. Robinson had 4 catches for 68 yards against the Steelers, and would’ve had two more had there not been very tacky penalties. The Bears need to scheme up more plays for Allen Robinson, whether it’s drag routes, double moves, or slants. This way Fields can find him quickly and efficiently. The best-case scenario for the Bears remains that Robinson regains his pro bowl form from the past two seasons and establishes a strong connection with Justin Fields.
Shuffle the OL to allow the return of Teven Jenkins
Jenkins was finally activated, so he will soon be back on the field, I’m guessing his first time being active will be week week 13 vs Arizona. He 100% should play immediately, both to improve the Bears chances and to develop. He remains a highly-touted rookie who just had an injury but is a nasty OLineman. Who to knock out of the OL? Sam Mustipher. He has struggled immensely this season. The most likely scenario is Jenkins starts at LT while fellow rookie Larry Borom continues at RT, Jason Peters kicks in to guard, and James Daniels plays center again. This is likely the best Bears OL unit, even with Germain Ifedi still injured. If Jenkins can come in and play well, the Bears future immediately looks much brighter.
Give the two rookie 6th rounders on the practice squad a chance
Two positions have not yielded much for the Bears: Slot receiver and nickel back. Marquise Goodwin has mostly been the WR3, but he has just 12 receptions for 173 yards, and only eclipsed 30 yards three times. Damiere Byrd and Jakeem Grant haven’t done much either. Dazz Newsome should get called up to the team and given a chance. Similarly, on defense Duke Shelley has handled the nickel corner duties, but he has rotated with Marqui Christian and Xavier Crawford. Thomas Graham Jr should get some playing time so the Bears know what they have and whether they’ll need one or two cornerbacks this offseason. On a similar note, let Khyiris Tonga and Trevis Gipson be the top rotators on the DL. They have both shown promise and are young players.
See if any safety pairing with Eddie Jackson is clearly better
I know Bears fans are upset with Jackson’s poor tackling, but the extremely bad defensive performances in the secondary especially the past two games are due to Jackson and Mack’s injuries. Jackson remains one of the better cover 4 safeties in the league despite some miscues this season. But the other safeties on the roster have struggled. None of Deon Bush, Tashaun Gipson, Teez Tabor or DeAndre Houston-Carson have been very impressive. The Bears need to see if any are good enough the rest of the season, otherwise the safety room may look a lot different in April.
Get big plays from the defense
Sean Desai has managed to get the Bears to 26 sacks on the season, and Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have been very good. They haven’t been a top team in pressure but they have gotten some on. And this is with Mack and Quinn missing multiple games. One disappointment has been takeaways; the team has just 9 takeaways. One per game is not enough considering the money being paid to the unit. I want to see more interceptions and strip sacks the rest of the season; that’s the Bears key to making any sort of run: force turnovers, more than you have been. That way the defense will get better numbers and the team will be in every game.
Make the playoffs
At 3-6, the Bears are just 1.5 games back of the playoffs and even the 6 seed in the NFC. Had the referees called a fair game Monday night, the Bears would be 4-5 and in prime position. Nonetheless, the Bears will need to win some games as underdogs to make the playoffs. They’ll have to go at least 9-8, so they’ll have to win some tough games between the Cardinals, Ravens, @ Seattle, @ Green Bay, and @ Minnesota. Nonetheless, the Bears need to go for it, as they do not own their first round pick and need to develop Justin Fields with as high-leverage situations as possible. And what better way to develop a rookie QB than with a playoff atmosphere? Matt Nagy may need to make the playoffs or his job may be in danger.
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