It’s a grim Thanksgiving for Bears fans. The team is 3-7, the coach might or might not have a job after this week, the rookie quarterback is hurt, and the Bears will battle the Lions in a battle of futility tomorrow. But, there are some things that Bear fans can hang their hat on in regards to the future outlook of the franchise, and it starts with change, whenever that ends up coming.
Change is Coming
It might be this weekend; it might not. Either way, Matt Nagy (at minimum) is all but done in Chicago. Maybe (hopefully) Ryan Pace and the front office will be as well. The specifics are still unknown, but it’s pretty much certain that this team can not continue to operate with the current leadership structure in place. There will be change after this season, and that’s something that we can take a sliver of comfort in.
Whomever will be running this team will inherit a potential franchise quarterback in Justin Fields, and that’s a great start. Fields hasn’t been overwhelmingly great at any point this season, but he’s flashed enough to instill confidence in us that he does indeed have the tools and skillset to be the future under center for the Chicago Bears.
Fields’ performance against the Steelers on Monday Night Football in Week 9 was the most prominent evidence of this, but there’s been a bevy of instances within games that prove the same. His performance against the 49ers was one of them; his deep-passing success against the Lions was another. Of course, learning a new playbook will mean more growing pains for Fields in year two, but at least (if things are done right) this one will be catered to him, rather than him being asked to operate within a flawed head coach’s desperate juggling act aimed solely at saving his job.
Chins up, Bears fans. Justin Fields will be a star in this league, be patient.
Happy Justin Fields day everyone 🤩 pic.twitter.com/D3gR9cyHiY
— Joseph Herff (@JosephHerffNFL) November 21, 2021
Roquan Smith has turned into one of (if not the) best inside linebackers in the NFL, and that’s a great building block to have in your pocket when you begin to rebuild an expensive and aging core this summer. Smith is all over the field, always finding himself at the ball, evident by his 17-tackle performance against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
If Roquan Smith is in the pass rush, he’s getting to the quarterback. If he’s in coverage, he’s making plays in both the run and pass game. Smith has 110 tackles through the Bears’ first ten games and has logged ten or more tackles in eight of those ten games to go along with three sacks.
Roquan Smith is playing at a 17-game pace of:
🔶 175 tackles
🔶 102 solo tackles
🔶 12 tackles-for-loss
🔶 5 sacks
He. Is. GOOD. pic.twitter.com/6P5HxoKbtk
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) November 12, 2021
I wrote about Darnell Mooney heading into the bye week, highlighting a fantastic six-week stretch that gives me confidence that the second-year receiver will be a fixture in the Bears’ offense moving forward. Mooney was a draft steal by Ryan Pace, of course, in the later rounds where Pace is done his best work during his tenure with the Bears, and he’s quickly become Justin Fields’ favorite target.
Just imagine what Fields and Mooney could do with a new playbook catered to getting Fields outside of the pocket and Mooney downfield consistently. Or maybe they can incorporate some of these screens we’ve been banging our fists on the table for all season and take advantage of Mooney’s deadly speed and burst.
— Tulane Football (@GreenWaveFB) November 21, 2021
This secondary has been terrible as a whole in 2021. Jaylon Johnson has been excellent as an individual in 2021. Johnson has slid into Kyle Fuller’s old CB1 role without missing a beat. Now the Bears need another good (hell, even replacement level) cornerback opposite Johnson so that other teams are forced to throw the ball to his side of the field. So we can see more things like this:
Rookie Jaylon Johnson rocks Allen Lazard to jar the ball loose 💥pic.twitter.com/xeO5SXd8Yz
— PFF (@PFF) November 30, 2020
#Bears CB Jaylon Johnson had a breakout game last week against the #Bengals, notching his first career INT as well as FOUR pass-deflections, but what changed in his game between his rookie season and now?
Turn your 🔊on and I'll walk you through it in this quick breakdown! pic.twitter.com/jjZWrBaPFi
— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) September 26, 2021
One CB I’m not worrying about? Jaylon Johnson, who I swear is gonna turn some of these PBUs into INTs in 2021.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) August 26, 2021
You get the point.
Happy Thanksgiving, Bears fans!