When the Chicago Bears reach the end of the season, board chairman George McCaskey and those he leaves for their opinion are likely to put more emphasis on the second half of the season than anything else.
If that is the case, it would create an exciting stretch of eight games for coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, while wondering what in McCaskey’s eyes will constitute as “progress” for a team coming after 8-8 seasons in a row and a wild card playoff spot a year ago while playing a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields, who is in the process of starting 15 games.
There is a lot to work from the first nine games, especially after an away loss of 29-27 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where the Bears unlocked their downfield passing game in an impressive rally in the second half. If it was an awakening for Fields and the players in the skill positions, combined with better protection from the offensive line, it bodes well for everyone involved in the team looking to get a losing streak of four games.
If Fields and the passing game discovered their identity against the Steelers, with the quarterback making accurate throws to third level, involving wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson and tight-ends Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham, the latter of whom had been declared missing, Bears would be significantly better equipped to to challenge in the next two months.
Fields have averaged at least 10 airyards per game. passing attempts in three of the last four games and has an average of 7.15 yards per. carry in that span. Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have apparently reached a point where things are starting to click, and sometimes when they do not, Fields still finds a way to keep the operation alive with off-schedule playbacks.
One impressive thing: Fields, with the exception of the disastrous road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he had five turnovers, has done a particularly good job of taking care of football. It’s one thing when a rookie does it because he plays conservatively, but Fields has challenged narrow windows downfield without paralyzing the team with a wave of turnovers.
Fields does a good job of expressing to the coaching staff what works for him, and through trial and error, the Bears learn what works better for him.
“We feel like we’re growing,” Nagy said. “Justin is getting better. But you have to keep doing that, and every week it seems like it’s a (new) scheme, staff of course for everyone – and then we have to be able to adapt to all that.”
If the Bears (3-6) can not continue where they left off at Heinz Field, it can be seen as an aberration for a struggling offense that has found momentum positively fleeting. It would be problematic from a point of view that the future of those with jobs on the line at Halas Hall is intertwined with success on the pitch and the development of Fields.
Nagy has had a hard time getting out of farewell since taking over as head coach in 2018. The Bears are 0-3 after their farewell week under him – 0-7 over dating to Marc Trestman’s second season – and the Bears are 0-6 in the two fights after farewell over the last three years. It’s unrelated to this season, but it’s also a disturbing trend. The Ravens are 11-3 after saying goodbye to John Harbaugh and have had 10 days to plan for the Bears since a disappointing 22-10 to the Miami Dolphins.
“I know where I came from, (Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid) has a pretty good record (after goodbye),” Nagy said. “I tried to follow it early in my career and it did not work. Not that you have to change. Some of it is also based on where you are as a team.”
The Bears are approaching a crossroads for Nagy, and a coaching team hoping for extra time for self-scouting will prove beneficial. The Bears found a way to rally to a .500 goal by 2020 and backed into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed.
The development of Fields adds a layer to consider this season. The Bears knew they were entering last season – after rejecting the fifth-year opportunity for Mitch Trubisky – they were almost certainly heading in a different direction on the position.
Now they have a player who possibly finally can stabilize the quarterback position, and Fields’ development is undoubtedly as important as wins and losses. But winning means something, even while developing a young quarterback, and the Bears go into this game stuck in another familiar track.
“OK, goodbye week, we need to think even more about it,” Nagy said. “Guess what? We also had a farewell week last year. We lost six games in a row with a farewell week in between. The only way to get back to that is to say, ‘OK, why is this going on?’ “It’s no one else’s fault but everyone else’s. Now we’re picking up the pieces and we’re getting a chance to play a fantastic football team that is really well trained, at home, and what are we going to do about it?”
It will be easy to assign errors if the Bears are unable to use the rally against the Steelers as a starting point. Credit will be just as easy to distribute if they can break through in the last eight games and look like the kind of attack everyone is waiting to see.
The whole thing is just another reason why the stretch race will mean the most to McCaskey.
Mark Andrews, Ravens TE
Information for this report was obtained from NFL scouts.
Mark Andrews, 6-foot-5, 256 pounds, is in his fourth season in Baltimore after the Ravens selected him in the third round in 2018 from Oklahoma. A Pro Bowl pick in his second season in which he had 10 touchdown receptions, Andrews has four 100-yard games in his career, including a career-high 147 last month against the Indianapolis Colts.
Andrews is number two on the team in receptions (48), yards (623) and touchdown catches (four), while he averages 13.3 yards per carry. reception and 3.75 yards after catch. He has been targeted 69 times and catches 69.6% of the passes thrown.
“He reminds me of Travis Kelce because he has nuances and experience in his regular driving,” the scout said. “The ravens will plan for him to open. He has a big, physical frame, and when Lamar Jackson is not right with the ball’s position, he can make him look right because he has a huge catch radius to pick balls outside his. He knows how to use his body in terms of being able to create leverage to stay open, to leave defensive backs outside and to cross their face and now use the massive frame and catch radius to secure the football at the point of attack. is a central goal for them, but he is also a vertical goal.They will drive him on deep overs and deep crossers to create explosive games with him.As it was talked about when (Marquise) “Hollywood” Brown and Rashod Bateman coming on the field in attack, it runs pass play through the tight end position.If Andrews does not produce, it’s a bad day for Baltimore.
“He’s the safety net man for Jackson. He wants to throw in controversial windows, and when he does with Andrews, it’s a higher percentage of throws for him because he’s so good at the point of attack. Not a burner down the field, has not the same athletic traits at a high level as a Kelce, but in terms of his style of play he reminds me of him. Excellent after the catch, physically after the catch. He is good in the running game. Not a dominant blocker but he can place the block all day long The thing with Baltimore is that they can line up in 22 crews and go 2-for-2 spread. They will use their formations to get you into what they want you to be in and spread out. Andrews is a big part of it because he can play as an attached tight-end, he can get detached, they can line him up in the castle, or they can be the back “X” wide receiver that you see with Kelce in Kansas City. He is a top-five tight end. ”
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