Charting Fields' In-Season Growth, Sanborn Shines, Hope For WRs, and Other Bears Bullets

Social Navigation

Charting Fields’ In-Season Growth, Sanborn Shines, Hope For WRs, and Other Bears Bullets

Chicago Bears

The bye week rolls on, but today is my last full day in San Diego. And I have plans to make the most of it. So you’ll see some stuff from here around here today. But mostly, I’m going to be easing off and finding some peace during this early December bit of free time.

  • The narrative surrounding Justin Fields’ “clutch” numbers is annoying to follow. And to that end, I’ve been trying my best not to give the runway for folks to beat a conversation into the ground that isn’t getting the nuance and perspective it deserves. With that in mind, I appreciate this perspective from the Sun-Times’ Mark Potash:
  • Does Fields still need to get it done? Yes, absolutely. Until then, those conversations will continue — whether we like them or not. But putting outsized importance on “clutch” numbers without putting equal importance on his surroundings and supporting cast at this stage of the game is foolish.
  • On the other side of the statistical equation, I’m digging this (and what it means):
  • Simply put, Fields has shown in-season growth when facing blitzes—performing when pressure is one of the hardest things a quarterback can do. And doing so as a young QB comes with a unique set of challenges (because, often, they’re working with makeshift lines and receiver groups). We’ve seen so much in-year development from Fields this year. And it is my favorite football thing to come from 2022 (so far).
  • This is what in-season growth looks like on a chart:
  • Have you voted for Justin Fields to go to the Pro Bowl lately? Just checking…
  • Free advice: Send your best cornerbacks to try to stop this guy. And maybe help with your best safety, too:
  • There are two ways I’ll choose to read this: On the one hand, it is annoying that the Vikings (Justin Jefferson), Packers (Christian Watson), and Lions (Amon-Ra St. Brown) have hit bullseye on receiver draft picks. But on the other hand, something like this gives me hope that the Bears can be next in line to pull off their own draft steal. And if I had a third hand, I’d (1) wonder where it came from and (2) point out that St. Brown and Watson weren’t first-round picks. Therefore, the Bears could snag a steal in the second round if they so choose.
  • Alec Pierce, a draft darling and oft-rumored Bears target, is starting to put it together in Indy:
  • Pierce and George Pickens were among the receivers most often tied to the Bears during the pre-draft process. The Bears took neither, much to the chagrin of many. And part of me wonders how they’d be dealing with things in Chicago. Because while the production is starting to come around, I’d consider both receivers’ rookie seasons to be streaky to this point. Seeing rookie receivers (even ones as talented as Pierce and Pickens) makes me wonder if that nudged Bears GM Ryan Poles into trading what looks to be the better of their second-round picks for Chase Claypool.
  • For what it’s worth, Claypool hasn’t found his groove just yet. But at least the Bears (1) got him into the building, (2) put him in a place where he can work with Fields in-season, and (3) could have Claypool working with Fields this offseason to build that rapport. We saw the offseason work pay off to various degrees with Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. And while it might not be much, having the ability to workout with Fields in the offseason is something a rookie receiver who has yet to be drafted can do. To be clear, this isn’t a game-changing reason as to why the Bears pulled the trigger on that deal — but it’s a thing on the margins that I don’t feel is inconsequential.
  • NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport calls outgoing Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard “a potential NFL coordinator” in 2023. And suddenly, I’m thinking of nightmare scenarios in which the Packers hire Leonhard and all of a sudden fix their defense.
  • Speaking of defense, I see Roquan Smith continues to play well in Baltimore:
  • Good for Roquan. He looks infinitely more comfortable playing inside in a defensive scheme that features 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers. Alternatively, Smith looks better in that style of defense than he did as the weakside linebacker in this scheme. It’s not as if Smith doesn’t have the talent to thrive in a defense that features 4 down linemen and 3 linebackers. But he didn’t hit the ground running (for a variety of reasons that we don’t really need to re-hash here) and didn’t play with the consistency in Chicago that we’re seeing him play with in Baltimore while in a scheme where his familiarity helps.

How Sanborn went undrafted is anyone’s guess because he already looks like a veteran with his play over the past five weeks. Against the Packers, he led all players with 14 tackles — including five stops — and didn’t have a single miss on the day.

  • The Bears getting a UDFA steal is a big short-term win for GM Ryan Poles for obvious reasons. But if Sanborn can be a full-time starter, it allows Poles to allocate his draft picks and cap space differently — ideally, to more important positions of need.
  • MLB’s Winter Meetings are exciting again. And not just because the Cubs have been busy (although, that helps):
  • Jameson Taillon is a nice pitcher who has pitched well in his career despite not reaching the heights that come attached with being a premium pitching prospect. Maybe the Cubs unlock another level in his game. My only concern is that he is on my keeper list for my 12-team, 20-keeper dynasty league. Usually, Cubs players on my team get better after I trade them off my squad. Something to keep in mind. As for Cody Bellinger, I love a good post-hype sleeper story. At least the Cubs have the potential to be a fun follow this spring and into the summer.
  • No pressure, gents:

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.