Chicago Bears: Five Questions Keeping You Up At Night

Heading into Week 1 seems extremely daunting for the Chicago Bears. Many changes have been made and it is hard to predict what the games might look like. New coaches, new players, missing coaches, and missing players abound. In looking at the roster, I get excited and extremely nervous all at the same time. And there is no room for error.  The Bears start off the season against the San Francisco 49er’s and the Green Bay Packers. Tricky business right off the bat. Week 3 and 4 are the Texans and the Giants.  So, let’s make some micro-goals.  How about 2-2 to start the season?

What might stop us from achieving that goal?

Question 1: Is Justin Fields ready?

I don’t watch NFL pre-season and barely pay attention to the numbers and the results. But it is really all we have to go on. Many people got really excited about Fields last pre-season game against most of the Browns starters when he went 14-16 for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Pretty good by any measure. I especially liked the 9.8 yards per average completion because he wasn’t just throwing the check downs.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Bears had the 30th best passing offense in the league, only better than the Giants and the Saints. Both of those teams’ starting quarterbacks (Daniel Jones and Jameis Winston) were out for the majority of the season. The Bears were 30th in yards, 29th in passing touchdowns, and 29th in quarterback rating. There is nowhere to go, but up (pretty much).

Last year, it was very difficult to evaluate Justin Fields with the play calling of Matt Nagy and the offensive line issues. It will be hard to continually blame others for Fields struggles. Will he look comfortable in the pocket? Will he take less sacks (he is supposed to be one of the fastest, most athletic quarterbacks out there), but at the same time pile up some yards with his legs? Will he be more accurate?

Question 2: How will the Bears use the one-two punch of David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert?

The Bears were the 14th ranked rushing offense last year, mostly behind David Montgomery. Montgomery rushed for 849 yards and added another 301 yards in receiving. It would be great for Montgomery to increase his yards/attempt which was 3.8 and increase his receptions. Forty-two receptions is nothing to sneeze at, but Matt Forte used to come closer to 100.

Khalil Herbert is a beast and he had 4.2 years/carry last year and added 433 yards to the Bear’s total. Keeping defenses honest by executing a threatening running game will be important for Fields to breakout.

Will this backfield look a little like Green Bay’s Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon? Can this backfield get us second and short? Can this backfield help us stay away from third and eight?

 Question 3: Will Darnell Mooney continue to rise?

All indications are that Darnell Mooney is an excellent wide receiver. Maybe a little on the small side, but he seems to catch everything, runs routes that get him open, and makes a game impact. Last year, Mooney was targeted 140 times, second on the team in targets was Cole Kmet at 93. Fields and Mooney obviously have a rapport.

Mooney caught 81 of those passes for 1055 yards for 13 yards per reception.  Clearly, Mooney is moving the sticks and receiving over 1000 yards puts him at the high end of the receiving spectrum. But will he take the next step this year? Will he do 1200 yards receiving? Will he come closer to 100 receptions? Most importantly, will he raise his 62 receiving yards/game number?

Question 4: Who will step up at receiver?

The combination of Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney could have been deadly. But that is not happening. Instead, it will be Allen Robinson and Cooper Kupp on the Rams playing for a Super Bowl repeat. For Mooney to take the leap, for Fields to become a franchise quarterback, for the running attack to progress, defenses must be worried about something besides Mooney.

In the offseason, the Bears grabbed a bunch of back up receivers and second (or third or fourth) tier receivers in Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, and N’Keal Harry. Harry has been placed on IR right away which is too bad as there were high expectations for him. Like Mooney, the front office will look like magicians if one of these receivers breaks out into a legitimate number 2 or even a 1.5 receiver.

The other option is Cole Kmet. Kmet was a huge addition to the Bears out of Notre Dame. At times, he looks unstoppable, and, at times, he looks pedestrian. Kmet could also start to climb the ranks of tight ends in the league this year. Maybe he doesn’t show up in the Travis Kelce discussions, but he should show up in the Zach Ertz and Darren Waller conversations.

Who will step up? How will they step up? How fast will they step up? Once you are 0-5, it really doesn’t matter anymore.

Question 5: What does this defense look like?

I am not going to apologize that most of this article is offense related because that is what keeps Bears fans awake at night. If the Bears are going to be Monsters again, the defense does need to show up. Hitting the ejector button on Khalil Mack was difficult to swallow, especially with the feeble return we got for him.  That first year, Mack was a viable Defensive Player of the Year. After that, double and triple teams interrupted his disruption capabilities.

Robert Quinn was a force of nature last year. Will he do it again? Will Eddie Jackson ever return to elite status. Roquan Smith is a two time All-Pro and is clearly an elite linebacker. Can he raise the play of his peers? Can he drive this entire defense into a new category? Who is the lockdown cornerback? Can they stop the run?

Right now, the answer to many of these questions is “I dunno.”


  • Larry Goldman

    Larry spends his nights and days watching, researching, and writing about sports in Chicago and the national conversation.

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