5 Takeaways: Justin Fields’ concerning progression clear in Bears’ loss to Buccaneers
The Bears have lost again, falling 27-17 to the Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. A franchise-worst losing streak extended to 12 while this season that has renewed hopes has opened at 0-2.
Here are the five takeaways from the Bears’ loss to the Buccaneers.
1. Fields not processing
Throughout the course of training camp, there were plenty of red flags. Now, it’s becoming quite apparent for all to see: Justin Fields isn’t progressing towards becoming a franchise quarterback.
Fields finished 16-of-29 for 211 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions, including a pick-six for the second straight game. Chicago’s offense managed just 236 net yards. Baker Mayfield, who is on his fourth team in the last three years, out-played Fields considerably in leading the Buccaneers to victory.
Now in his third NFL season, Fields is still processing in the pocket like a rookie. He continues to miss opportunities downfield – chances to create explosive plays for this offense. During Sunday’s game, a screenshot spread through social media of Fields not seeing a wide-open Roschon Johnson running all alone on a route to the end zone. That play resulted in Fields taking a sack.
Fields is 29 games into his career and has yet to show command through his progressions. His internal clock isn’t ticking properly. At this point, it’s worth wondering whether Fields will ever overcome that flaw in his game.
The Bears had a chance still to win this game with 2:24 remaining – the opportunity for Fields to lead that game-winning drive for the first time in his career. Backed up to their own end zone, the Bears dialed a middle screen pass and Fields didn’t see Shaq Barrett, who hauled in the pass and pushed his way into the end zone.
Fields had some bright moments throwing downfield to DJ Moore, including a 33-yard strike on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage. In the fourth quarter, he split a pair of defenders for a 20-yard touchdown to Chase Claypool.
Fields is playing out the pivotal season that should ultimately define his future in the NFL. The Bears could sign him to a long-term contract extension this offseason – or they could be looking for their next quarterback.
By this point, Fields should seem comfortable in the pocket and in command of his progressions. It’s how talent comes together with awareness.
Fields has all the talent to be successful. He’s just missing what it takes to thrive.
2. DJ’s day
Last week, the Bears stated their priority to get Moore involved in their offense. On Sunday, those intentions were clear.
Moore hauled in 6 receptions for 104 yards as part of an impressive individual performance. After being limited to just 2 receptions for 25 yards on a pair of targets in the opener last Sunday at Soldier Field, Moore surpassed those numbers on the first drive of the game.
“It was definitely a disappointment,” said offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said of Moore’s lacking role in the opener. “There are a lot of reasons why things happen. Protection could’ve broken down on a particular play for him, Justin maybe just didn’t see something on a particular play. There’s a lot of things that go into it. We’re definitely calling plays for DJ, and he knows that. He wasn’t frustrated by any of that. Sometimes, it’s just the way the coverage dictates where the quarterback has to go with the football too.
“He’s going to be a big part of that plan.”
As it should be. Moore was acquired by the Bears in their blockbuster March trade involving the No. 1 overall pick. Chicago coveted him as part of the haul from Carolina because of what he could bring as a true top target for Fields in this offense.
Moore, 26, had 364 receptions for 5,201 yards and 21 touchdowns over five seasons with the Panthers. He emerged as a proven No. 1 wide receiver despite a revolving door of quarterbacks in Carolina.
The Bears know what Moore can bring for their offense. It seems that they made him a focal point of their game plan on Sunday.
More of Moore, please.
3. Secondary concerns
First and foremost, let’s hope that Eddie Jackson’s foot injury is not serious – both for the sake of a great person and also a key player for this defense.
Jackson went down in the first quarter with an injury to his left foot, the same one in which he suffered a Lisfranc injury last November. He was carted to the locker room and did not return.
The Bears’ secondary was depleted for much of Sunday’s game with Jackson sidelined and Jaquan Brisker dealing with dehydration. Chicago was down to its third nickel option in Greg Stroman Jr. after losing Kyler Gordon (hand) to injured reserve and Josh Blackwell to a midweek hamstring injury. Mayfield and the Buccaneers picked on rookie Tyrique Stevenson, who had a tough afternoon.
This secondary appeared to be a strength for the Bears. Suddenly, it’s a unit with its depth already being exposed.
Losing Jackson would be a brutal blow to this defense as a whole. As a team, missing a key leader would be just as costly.
Consider what Jackson said at the start of training camp, a message he hoped would resonate with the Bears.
“I’m tired of the same old standard that the Bears have,” Jackson said. “The same results in and out every year.
“We want to make it to the playoffs and eventually win a Super Bowl.”
4. Claypool responds
On Wednesday morning, when Eberflus chose not to say whether Chase Claypool would be active for this game, he put his player on notice.
Claypool’s effort was lacking in the Bears’ season-opening loss last Sunday. That simply had to change.
During the last week, Claypool apologized to his Bears teammates and coaches and vowed that his play would be better.
Claypool put forth a stronger performance on Sunday, finishing with 3 receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown. That score came in the fourth quarter, marking the first time he found the end zone with the Bears.
Claypool was more assertive as a blocker, including with one that de-cleated safety Ryan Neal on a 29-yard run for Roschon Johnson.
“I always tell them, ‘Try to be the best player on the field with or without the ball,’” Bears wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said last week. “I don’t think we accomplished that this past week.
“His button is different from everybody else. It’s my job to find that button. I think I found it.”
5. Thoughts for Davis
As the Bears prepared to take off for Tampa on Saturday, veteran right guard Nate Davis was not with the team.
Davis was dealing with a death in the family. He has missed multiple practices due to personal reasons. It’s a reminder that we often don’t know what these individuals are dealing with away from football. The same could be said for defensive coordinator Alan Williams, who is away from the Bears due to a personal matter of his own.
When it comes to a personal ordeal like this, let’s try to show compassion for the person first.