Bears rookie QB Justin Fields has serious potential
By: Jake Rajala
A large percentage of the NFL audience would tell you that it was inevitable that Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields would be the starting QB in Chicago at some point this season. Well, what just happened today? Matt Nagy announced that Fields would be the lead signal-caller in their Week 3 matchup.
Former starting QB Andy Dalton is yet another journeyman QB to face an unfortunate injury (with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting the trend). Dalton’s left knee injury is the reason behind his upcoming absence. Coach Nagy is reluctant to say his step-son won’t cough up the starting gig to Fields if the rookie shines as the starter, but it would make too much sense for Fields to overturn Nagy’s fixed QB judgment and prove he’s the right choice as the starting QB.
If Fields does shine and show to be the better choice as the starting QB, it would just be another tale of “the young QB taking the QB1 spot in wake of the veteran QB’s injury”. NFL fans have witnessed a vast number of veteran QBs getting injured in history, followed by young QBs taking the starting gig, and then the young buck not letting go of the QB1 spot.
The once rookie Justin Herbert cemented the starting QB position in Los Angeles after veteran Tyrod Taylor went down with a horrible accident of an injury last season. Herbert then proceeded to win Offensive Rookie of The Year. A sixth-round QB by the name of Tom Brady also strolled onto the field in his second season of the league to start after Drew Bledsoe went down with a gruesome injury. Tom Brady didn’t only secure the starting QB spot, but he also just happened to go on to win seven world championships.
Fields is clearly a talented athlete, but he’s also shown to be productive in limited reps on the field this season.
The young QB can make defenses respect his rushing ability when he’s scanning the field in the pocket. He can also be a threat in the red zone to oust damage himself, but his all-purpose ability can even open things up for his teammates. Stud RB David Montgomery should undoubtedly see a boost in efficiency from a rushing threat at the QB position.
Fields does not have a rocket launcher for an arm, but he does have impressive passing skills when he’s on the move. Allen Robinson hasn’t been able to get hot this season so far (8-59-1), so if Fields can connect with A-Rob from not just in the pocket, but also with more plays off play action and when the young QB breaks the pocket, it would show to be a benefit for A-Rob and the offense as a whole. If Fields can ignite Robinson, Jimmy Graham, and take care of the football, it would make sense to expect the 22-year-old to hold onto the starting role. The “football gods” and logic should soon be on Fields’s side for the case to be the Bears true starting QB.
Where has the time gone? We are already halfway through July, and that means we have less than 60 days until the NFL 2021 Season kicks off. So I am counting down the days in anticipation and beginning to sort through ADP to determine where I can find value players this year. For this article, I will be looking for three quarterbacks who are drastically underpriced for one reason or another for the 2021 season.
In the last two seasons, the Titans have finished 30th and 32nd in pass attempts. Yet Ryan Tannehill has finished as a top 10 quarterback in fantasy points per game. You may ask yourself how this is possible, as I know I questioned it after looking at the low passing totals for Tannehill. The answer for Tannehill is he has two traits working heavily for him that make him an elite fantasy quarterback.
The first is efficiency. If you do not have volume as a quarterback, you can use efficiency to make up for the lack of passing opportunities. Where that jumps out is the touchdown rate for Tannehill. Tannehill ranked third last year with a touchdown on 6.9% of his throws, and you may be thinking to yourself that must have been an outlier season for him. While it is above the league average, he had an even higher touchdown rate in 2019, converting touchdowns at a rate of 7.7%! If you watched the tweet posted at the beginning of the section, you are well aware that Tannehill is the lord of efficiency in the NFL. The addition of Julio Jones to the receiving core will only help Tannehill remain one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL.
The second is a fantasy manager’s favorite word when describing a quarterback. The infamous Konami Code. If a quarterback can earn points on the ground, they have a significant advantage over the statuesque signal-callers. Yards gained on the ground are worth 2.5x than yards made through the air for fantasy. It sets a much higher floor and ceiling for a fantasy quarterback, creating a massive difference throughout a season. Tannehill was a wide receiver in college and used athleticism to earn an extra 68 fantasy points this season. A Konami Quarterback uses the secret sauce of rushing to score more points for the year. It’s the extra bow in Tannehill’s quiver that not every quarterback possess,
You can keep assuming regression for Tannehill, but he has proven time and time again that it is not a smart bet to make. Instead, Tannehill will push towards the top five fantasy quarterbacks with the offensive weaponry around Tannehill this year.
Watching Justin Fields fall throughout the offseason is still something I struggle with, as I feel that I was either entirely missing something or that the NFL and multiple teams missed on this elite quarterback prospect coming out of Ohio State. The one team that did not miss was the Chicago Bears, who traded up to the 11th pick to select him in the first round of the NFL Draft.
There have been countless talks this offseason of Andy Dalton being the starting quarterback for an extended time until the Bears decide to start Justin Fields, referencing how Kansas City waited on Patrick Mahomes for a season. I’m here to explain why that narrative makes zero sense. First, I do not see much of a parallel between the two teams as Kansas City had Alex Smith entering his fifth season as the starter led the Chiefs to a 41-20 record with Smith specializing in not turning the ball over. Smith was also coming off of his second Pro Bowl appearance with Kansas City. Second, the Bears have been so desperate for decent quarterback play that they brought in veteran Nick Foles last year on his four-year 88 million dollar deal. He replaced Trubisky in week 3, leading the team to a 2-5 record in the seven games he started before handing the reigns back over to Trubisky.
In steps one of the best college quarterbacks we have seen in Justin Fields to become the next heir apparent in NFL and fantasy circles. Fields has numerous traits that will set him up exceptionally well at the NFL level. As the tweet above showed, Fields is an incredibly accurate quarterback in all areas of the field. In addition, he possesses the ability to elevate the skill position players of the Bears. Lastly, we dig into the juicy part of fantasy quarterbacks that separate them in fantasy, known as the Konami Code. Fields ran the fastest forty-yard dash since RG3 ran a 4.41 forty-yard dash in 2012. That athleticism is what separates him from Lawerence when I chase upside in fantasy. I want a quarterback who can score fantasy points through the air and on the ground. It is an actual cheat code for quarterback scoring, and Justin Fields oozes potential. Going in the 11th round of drafts, that is the perfect time to gamble on the upside.
Tua is a player I have written about multiple times this offseason. Unfortunately, the fantasy football community overreacted to as rough of a rookie season as any quarterback could have. Recovering from a significant hip injury that was eerily similar to Bo Jackson’s injury ended his football career. Thankfully, modern medicine allows athletes to continue to play after suffering such a gruesome injury.
The entire community has anointed Tua as the subsequent quarterback bust while missing the key statistics that tell a completely different story. Tua was second in accuracy rating, third in catchable pass rate, and third in ball placement as a rookie. Those are elite accuracy metrics from anyone, let alone a rookie quarterback.
These stats back up what we believed Tua to be during his Alabama days when the phrase “Tank for Tua” was famous in 2019. The difference is highlighted in the tweet above. Tua passed to four first-round picks in DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, and Henry Ruggs at Alabama. Last season at Miami, Tua was throwing to Davante Parker and no other receivers of significance. With names such as Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford seeing meaningful playing time, It’s no surprise for any quarterback to struggle.
The Dolphins knew they had a lack of talent in the receiver room and addressed it. Signing Will Fuller and drafting Jaylen Waddle hopes that the talented additions would support Tua’s development as a passer in 2021. What stands out is the Dolphins added a lot of speed to the receiver room. With a field general who has pinpoint precision, it should be a fun combination to watch, as the efficiency will see a notable spike in 2021 due to the talent surrounding Tua. Tua will leap forward in his second year, solidifying himself as the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins’ future.
The Chicago Bears had themselves quite an interesting 2020-2021 NFL season. They started the season 5-1 through the first six weeks. However, that changed in rather quickly as they immediately went on a six-game losing streak and quickly dropped to 5-7. The Bears would end up finishing the regular season at 8-8 and just barely clinching playoff birth as a wildcard.
Their one and playoff game last season was all too fitting for Chicago. There were dropped passes, missed opportunities, and costly penalties which ultimately ended their season as they lost to the New Orleans Saints 21-9 in the Wild Card round. Did I mention that they also lost on Nickelodeon? That can’t be fun.
For Chicago, this upcoming season has some promise, and if the correct pieces fall in line they could find themselves in the playoffs in 2021. Although they have the third most difficult strength of schedule, there are some positives for Bears fans to look forward to this season, especially after having quite possibly the best draft in 2021. From aspects such as their division to their stout defense, these are the three reasons why the Chicago Bears could get back to the playoffs.
1. The Current State of the NFC North
It’s no secret that the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers have a relationship to repair. There is some speculation that the reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers could end up leaving the Packers for a variety of reasons. But one of the main reasons why the Bears have had trouble winning the NFC North (besides 2018) is because of him. In his entire career, Aaron Rodgers is 22-5 against Chicago. For a team that’s trying to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years, they would love to see him go.
If Rodgers does end his tenure in Green Bay, this opens up the door for the Bears immediately. Why? Because the rest of the division is rather weak. The Lions are rebuilding after trading long-time Detroit Lion Matthew Stafford to the Rams and now have Jared Goff as their quarterback of the future. The Lions are not in “win-now mode” and most likely won’t be a threat in the 2021 NFL season.
The only roadblock for the Bears if Rodgers does leave is the Minnesota Vikings. This team is led by Dalvin Cook, Adam Theilen, and their emerging star Justin Jefferson in an offense that ranked fourth in yards (6,292) and yards per game (393.3). However, there are still some questions surrounding Kirk Cousins and his ability to lead as the starting quarterback. They had a great draft and even added veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson to their secondary, but their defense did rank 29th in team defense last season. I think it’s safe to say their defense won’t have a major jump this upcoming season.
If everything falls in place with Rodgers leaving, the Vikings remaining inconsistent, and the Lions playing for draft picks, then the Chicago Bears should find themselves in the driver seat to win the division and in the playoffs for the second straight year.
2. A Potential Top-10 Defense (Or Better)
This defense deserves a lot of credit for how they have played in recent years. If it wasn’t for this defense the Bears would never have made it to the playoffs. Why? They were ranked in the top half of the league in yards allowed per game (344.9, ranked 11th), passing yards allowed per game (231.6, ranked 12th), rushing yards per game (113.4, ranked 15th), and points allowed per game (23.1, ranked 14th).
This defense is only getting better even without the presence of Kyle Fuller. Khalil Mack has an incredible supporting cast around him with, Roquan Smith and Akiem Hicks helping him on the defensive line. The secondary consists of Desmond Trufant, Eddie Jackson, and the recently signed Artie Burns. In the pass rush and pass defense, this team has the potential to wreak havoc and cause problems for opposing offenses.
This defensive roster has the potential to be in the top ten instead of just barely scraping the top 15. If this defense plays as good as they are on paper, they should be able to compete with anyone in the league.
3. Plenty of Young and Improving Offensive Talent
The young talent for the Chicago Bears, especially on the offensive side of the ball is impressive and they’re only getting better. The future could potentially look extremely bright with the offensive talent they have drafted and improved.
As I previously mentioned, the team drafted Justin Fields from Ohio State who could potentially be their quarterback of the future. If Andy Dalton fails to play well, Fields could not only see the field but also find a way to win the starting job. Having a former college sensation under center would raise the level of excitement in Chicago.
Besides Fields, there are other prospects that can make an immediate impact this year. Darnell Mooney out of Tulane University is a player with crisp route running and speed who is only improving. He broke the Bears’ receiving record for a rookie, and his expectations for his sophomore season are high. Cole Kmet has the potential to be a consistent tight end for them and Anthony Miller could be motivated to play well as has a lot to prove after it has been reported that he’s on the team’s “bubble.”
Then there are the two talented offensive tackles Chicago drafted in Tevin Jenkins from Oklahoma State and Larry Borom from the University of Missouri to help boost their pass protection (which they desperately needed). This gives Dalton the time to throw to the reliable hands of Allen Robinson and time for David Montgomery and Damien Williams to actually produce in the ground game. These young guys could be carrying this offense in 2021.
If the young talent can improve their game with consistent quarterback play from either Dalton or Fields and their running back and receiving core boost their level of play from last year, this offense has the potential to be sneaky good. Granted, it depends on a lot of moving pieces and other aspects, but the potential is there. The young talent in Chicago is another major reason the Bears make the playoffs in the upcoming 2021 NFL season.
Justin Fields highlights Chicago Bears training camp preview
By: Dylan Clemons
The Chicago Bears are coming into this season with more questions than answers. Head Coach Matt Nagy and General Manager Ryan Pace are very much on the hot seat after an 8-8 season. Largely, the disappointment stemmed from an embarrassing 21-9 playoff loss against the New Orleans Saints. The loss ended up being the last game quarterback Mitchell Trubisky would play for the Bears, with him now in Buffalo.
The Bears then signed veteran Andy Dalton to a one-year contract, whom they told will be the starter. Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. They then drafted quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th pick in the NFL draft after trading up to get him.
In my opinion, that should be the number one training camp battle for the Bears, but Nagy pretty much squashed that by saying Dalton will be under center Week 1. So with that said, let’s now jump into the top three training camp battles for the Chicago Bears.
In my eyes, the Bears have three out of the five starters locked up heading into training camp on the offensive line. The first of which is one of the Tackles. They drafted Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State with the 39th pick of the NFL Draft. It was a surprise to many, that he had fallen to the second round, considering he was projected by most to be a 1st round pick. However he played mostly at the right tackle position in college, but the Bears project him to be the left tackle of the future.
Another guaranteed starter in my opinion is Pro Bowl guard/center, Cody Whitehair. He has started at both positions in his career but has mostly played center. The third starter is James Daniels, who was drafted by GM Ryan Pace in 2018. Daniels was only able to play in five games last season due to a torn pectoral. But heading into last season, Daniels had a 73.3 run-blocking grade according to PFF, which ranked 16th best in the league.
That leaves the last two offensive line spots up for grabs between four players. The Bears brought veteran Germain Ifedi back on a one-year deal. He started all 16 games for the Bears last season, mostly at guard, after being a tackle for four seasons in Seattle. He scored a 65.5 grade from PFF, which was by far the highest in his career.
The last three Linemen are wild cards in all of this. Undrafted free agent Sam Mustipher, from last year, started seven games and showed flashes of being a starting-caliber center. Alex Bars another undrafted free agent from two years also started in eight games last season. At times Bars looked overmatched at guard, and I project him to be a depth piece. The last guy in on this battle is Larry Borom, whom the Bears used round five draft capital on. Borom projects to be somewhat of a project, so I expect him to be on the bench at the start of the season.
For what its worth, I think the Bears starting offensive line should be, Teven Jenkins and Germain Ifedi at the Tackle positions. Cody Whitehair, and James Daniels at the guard positions, with Sam Mustipher as the starting center.
In one of the most bizarre off-season moves in the NFL, the Bears released veteran pro bowler Kyle Fuller to save cap space in which they severely needed. They also had veteran slot cornerback Buster Skrine leave in free agency as well.
Cornerback is the thinnest position on the Bears roster heading into training camp. They signed veteran Desmond Trufant to a one-year contract this off-season. Trufant has had a solid career, being named to the Pro Bowl in 2015. But since that time, he has struggled to be able to stay healthy. Trufant has only played in 15 total games over the past two seasons for the Falcons and Lions.
This is putting a ton of pressure on second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who also struggled to stay healthy only playing in 13 games due to a shoulder injury. But when Johnson was on the field, he was very solid. According to PFF Johnson ranked 6th in incompletion rate at 21%. Johnson will come into this season as the number one cornerback on the roster.
All of the other cornerbacks on the roster are very inexperienced. It looks like Kindle Vildor, and Duke Shelley will battle it out at the slot cornerback position. They each started a combined three games last season, and each had their moments. Vildor actually had seven tackles in the playoff game. My bet is on Vildor to win that battle. The Bears also drafted Thomas Graham Jr. in the 6th round of the draft, who may end up seeing early playing time. Former first-round pick Artie Burns is also on the roster, as he tries to battle back from a torn ACL he suffered in training camp last season.
Slot Wide Receiver
Heading into the last few seasons this was easy, it was Anthony Miller’s job to lose. Well, after another disappointing season, in which Miller could not stay out of coach Nagy’s doghouse. Miller has been involved in multiple trade reports this off-season
In 2018 the Bears traded up in the second round to draft Miller. Miller caught seven touchdowns in his rookie year, but since then has only four touchdowns combined the last two seasons. Last season Miller played 86% of his snaps from the slot, which ranked ninth in the NFL according to playerprofiler.com
With Miller’s time in Chicago possibly coming to a close, that opens the door for someone to take those slot snaps. The first player that comes to mind is free agent accusation Damiere Byrd who came over from the New England Patriots. The speedster that runs a 4.3 40 yard dash didn’t play a whole lot of snaps in the slot for the patriots, but that has a lot to do with long-standing slot receiver Julian Edelman. In my eyes, Byrd projects to me as a slot receiver with his small body type, only weighing 162 lbs.
Veteran Marquise Goodwin also signed with the Bears this off-season after opting out of the 2020 season due to covid-19 concerns. Goodwin has mostly played on the outside as well, only lining up in the slot for about 15% of his snaps in 2018 and 2019. The stats that sticks out the most to me is, Goodwin had a 1.88 target separation which ranked 5th in the NFL for that season.
It is tough to project who is going to win the starting slot role considering we don’t know Anthony Miller’s future with the team. If Miller is on the roster for Week 1, I’d expect him to be lined up in the slot most of the snaps. If he is traded by Week 1, I bet that Damiere Byrd will be the third receiver behind Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney heading into the season.
Will Bears rookie QB Justin Fields start in Week 1?
Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes
The Chicago Bears made waves on draft day when they traded up for Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields. The Bears traded up from the 20th pick to the 11th pick, giving up extra first, fourth, and fifth-round picks in the process. The Bears clearly plan on offering Fields the chance to become their franchise quarterback for years to come, but they are not giving him the keys yet. The Bears signed ex-Bengal and Cowboy Andy Dalton to a one-year, ten-million-dollar contract.
With Dalton’s contract came a promise: the role of starting quarterback. During Dalton’s initial press conference with Chicago, he said, “The Bears told me I was the starter.” What Dalton did not expect was added competition in the form of a heralded prospect like Fields. Nevertheless, coach Nagy has reiterated that Andy Dalton is the Bears’ starter for the foreseeable future. Nagy is pleased with Fields’ progress, but will not rush him into NFL action. The Bears have dealt with a fiasco at their quarterback position for years, so it is possible that Nagy does not want any details to reach the public. While Nagy has said that Andy Dalton will be their week one starter, when will we see Justin Fields earn the starting job?
Prior to the Bears giving Nagy the head coaching job, Nagy worked as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator from 2016-2017. During the 2017 NFL draft, the Chiefs traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes. Though they gave up significant capital to acquire Mahomes, he sat on the bench for his rookie season. Nagy and Reid trusted Alex Smith to lead their offense in 2017, and he rewarded them with a playoff berth. The Chiefs made it clear that Mahomes would not be their day one starter, and the team was better off because of it.
With the Chicago Bears, Nagy has had a continuous quarterback carousel. Prior to the season, Nagy never committed to either Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky as the full-time signal-caller. During the season, Nagy went back and forth multiple times between Foles and Trubisky, with no quarterback cementing themself as the full-time starter. While the Bears made the playoffs as the seven seed, the organization knew they needed change, hence the additions of Dalton and Fields. Even with two new quarterbacks on the roster, Nagy believes that naming one the starter will have a better outcome than holding an open competition.
Need to Win-Now
Unlike the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs, the 2021 Chicago Bears do not have as great of a supporting cast. Though the Bears defense gets Eddie Goldman back from his 2020 opt-out, the Bears cut star cornerback Kyle Fuller. The offensive line stays relatively unchanged, with rookie Teven Jenkins slated to take over from released veteran Charles Leno Jr. Allen Robinson will play on the franchise tag, but the rest of the Bears’ weapons group is somewhat lacking. An Andy Dalton-led Bears team is a .500 team at best, with the assumption that Aaron Rodgers is playing for the Packers.
Chicago can not afford to waste 2021, as time is of the essence. Both head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are on the hot seat, and a lackluster season could cause both to lose their jobs. To further compound the urgency, the Bears do not have their 2022 1st round draft pick, as they traded it to the New York Giants when they moved up to select Justin Fields. The Bears are set to play at the Rams, against the Bengals, and at the Browns to open the season. Chicago is staring down a 1-2 start and may be forced to start Fields, even in the unlikely event that he is not ready.
Fields’ relentless work ethic
Justin Fields is a special prospect. I have never seen a quarterback with his blend of athleticism, arm strength, and accuracy. In high school, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence were neck and neck for top recruit and each earned the title on different sites. While Lawrence went on to lead Clemson to a national title in his freshman year, Fields sat behind Jake Fromm. Georgia decided that keeping Fromm as their starter was optimal, so Fields transferred to Ohio State. Fields won the job immediately, putting up a record-setting season. Fields had a touchdown to interception ratio of 41-3, and he led the big ten records in yards per attempt (9.2) and adjusted passing yards per attempt (11.2).
Fields came into college a heralded recruit and exited a top fifteen selection. Those that have been around him have constantly given rave reviews about the young man’s desire to get better every day. Fields said that he plans to get back to Chicago to train two weeks before the start of training camp. Though comments like this inspire confidence in Justin’s future, it will ultimately be how he plays during camp, preseason games, and practices that determine when Justin becomes QB1.
There is a reality where Justin Fields starts on Sunday night of week 1 for the Bears, and there is also a reality that has Fields sit on the bench for the entire 2021 season. The most likely outcome is somewhere in the middle.
The Bears’ early schedule is intimidating, but not impossible. If Andy Dalton manages two wins in the first three games, he faces winnable games against the Lions and Raiders during weeks four and five respectively. Even if Justin is as good as promised during practice, the Bears will only make changes if they have to. Nagy has rested a quarterback (Mahomes) for an extended period because there was no urgency, so Chicago will stay with Dalton until they can’t anymore. The most likely outcome is Justin Fields starting between 15 and 11 games. Andy Dalton’s past few seasons have been below average, and, likely, he has not magically got better. If Dalton plays like a bottom-tier quarterback, Justin will get a shot at the job early in the year and is a potential rookie of the year dark horse.
The Chicago Bears have had quite the offseason so far, moving pieces all over the place between additions and removals. With the drafting of Justin Fields, and the signing of Andy Dalton for a relatively decent amount, the debate for starting QB has begun. Most would expect Fields to start right away as he was taken early in this years draft, however that may not be the case immediately.
In this article, I will be going over three reasons as to why Andy Dalton should be the Bears starting quarterback in 2021.
Fields needs time to develop
A lot of people think throwing a QB straight into the game will work every time, or at least will work in their case. First off, Fields is a phenomenal quarterback from what we have seen, I cannot deny that in the slightest. However, taking a year to develop NFL tendencies and learn from the coaches in the building as well as learn the Bears’ scheme and offense would definitely benefit him in the long run.
We have seen this work out before, the primary example being with the Kansas City Chiefs letting Patrick Mahomes develop behind Alex Smith for a bit. Or even Justin Herbert behind Tyrod Taylor, despite only being a few weeks. Having Andy Dalton and Nick Foles around, two veteran QBs who have seen it all in a sense, to teach you the ins and outs of this next step would do wonders.
Chicago is not ready yet
This one is pretty self-explanatory, Chicago is not ready for a deep playoff push yet, potentially not a playoff push at all if they underperform. Even if Fields were to start, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that he can take them to the playoffs in his rookie campaign. Therefore risking the compromise of his health just to give him experience is not the brightest idea in the book.
With their coaching and GM situation also really on the brink of collapsing, the worst case scenario is Fields takes the field year one and has a coaching change after one year. Or even worse, he does not have enough to start yet and that gets the coach and GM fired because he underperforms year one. The best and most suitable scenario for Fields is to sit a year, let the Bears do whatever they do this year while he learns the playbook and scheme, and let the front office get cleaned out if it needs to be.
Andy Dalton can at least break Fields in
If the Bears do not heed this advice and start Fields in the first year, at least they should let Dalton break Fields in. What I mean by that is 50:50 split the season, starting Dalton for the first half of the year and Fields for the second half. Following the lines of what Miami did last year with Tua Tagovailoa and Ryan Fitzpatrick, where they just got Tua playing time while not rushing him in full time.
This knowledge of how to play in an NFL game and how to handle that pressure may do Fields some good, as it will make him work even harder in the next offseason to prepare once he knows what it is like. They cannot make the same mistake they make with Mitchell Trubisky, despite him and Fields being vastly different QBs.
A few short months ago I was writing articles about general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy’s impending firings, so I understand as well as anyone that a Chicago Bears Super Bowl run sounds a bit farfetched right now, but NFL franchises often flip the script overnight in this league and it can all start with one move.
Now I know I just finished saying that Chicago’s chances aren’t reliant on Fields’ immediate stardom, and they’re not, but his potential as a generational quarterback talent is certainly the conductor of the hype train.
Truth is, I have been against this regime for quite some time. The trade up for the unproven Mitchell Trubisky, the horrid playcalling by Nagy that seemed to stunt the growth of not only Trubisky but running back David Montgomery, the indecision at QB and the miserable ideas to bring in Nick Foles and Andy Dalton as “saviors” when every NFL fan under the sun knows that these veterans are no more than underwhelming game managers. Yes, I know Foles won a Super Bowl, but that Philadelphia Eagles roster was built like a tank and this Bears one is not.
It’s been a tough road for Bears fans ever since Vic Fangio’s defense (led by Khalil Mack) shattered expectations in 2018. Not tough like 1-15 record tough, but more “what could have been” tough. The knowledge that your putrid offense is holding back and possibly wasting a championship caliber defense is difficult to stomach (especially when you traded a ton of your future draft capital for the catalyst of that unit in Mack).
This defense has a window, and that window is closing fast. Mack is under contract till 2025, but his cap hit is exorbitant after 2021 (unless Chicago takes the potential out next offseason at a $24 million dollar hit). That 2018 group has already seen losses like Fangio (DC), Kyle Fuller (CB1), Adrian Amos (S), Prince Amukamara (CB2, age caught up fast here), Bryce Callahan (slot), Leonard Floyd (edge) and more. Mack’s departure could be the final nail in the coffin, sealing that window for good.
The emergence of a unique prospect like Fields at QB gives Chicago a shot in 2021, but there are a few other factors that have a Jets fan like me all aboard the Bears bandwagon.
1. NFC in Decline
With Drew Brees retiring, the NFC East in total dissarray, Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay, and the NFC West all beating up on eachother, there aren’t many Super Bowl favorites in the NFC outside of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In what has become a conference shift in strength, we now see a lot of the bright young quarterbacks in the AFC (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson should he return to Houston) while the NFC is left wanting.
An Aaron Rodgers trade to a franchise like the Denver Broncos could totally blow the doors off this conversation. Not only that, it would leave a gaping hole in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions rebuilding and the Minnesota Vikings as a playoff bubble team at best. The Green Bay Packers are one of the NFC’s (and Bears’) strongest competitors left, and if there’s any truth to the rumors, that Cheesehead locomotive may have already flown off the tracks.
2. Phenomenal ’21 Draft
We all know about the Justin Fields selection, but the Bears 2021 draft went much further than that. Pace was drafting like his job was on the line and he answered the bell with some really solid picks.
Just after trading up to get the franchise QB, Pace was able to nab the left tackle to pair with him for years to come, in Teven Jenkins. Many thought the Oklahoma State Cowboys 6’6″ tackle would go in the first, but he slipped to day two and the Bears did not hesitate. Later on he bulked the offensive line again, drafting upside guard prospect Larry Borom out of Missouri.
One trouble area may be cornerback with Fuller gone, but sixth rounder Thomas Graham Jr. had sleeper grades from many analysts out of Oregon. The former Duck could help fill the void, but Chicago will also need something from 2020 second rounder Jaylon Johnson (just turned 22 in April), and free agent flier Desmond Trufant.
3. Key Vets Returning After 2020 Season
I wasn’t particularly high on the 2020 Bears defense, in part because I knew the offense would struggle, but also because some instrumental pieces were missing.
One major cog to account for was nose tackle Eddie Goldman, a 2020 COVID opt-out. Goldman had 40-plus tackles in 2017 and ’18 as one of the premier run-stuffers in the game. 2021 is only his age-27 season, so Chicago will count on the DT to return with avengeance after a year on the pine.
Alongside Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, this unit is still very formidable up front. The linebacker core also flaunts Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan in the middle, with free safety Eddie Jackson over the top. LB Christian Jones joins this crew, and they’ll also look to re-sign or replace strong safety Tash Gipson before preseason begins. Gipson started all 16 games with the Bears a season ago, and is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Let’s not forget the offensive side of the ball, as Pace held onto wide receiver Allen Robinson for dear life. New faces like Damien Williams, Damiere Byrd, Dazz Newsome, Khalil Herbert and Marquise Goodwin add some versatility to a group that needs to get more creative behind Fields and Nagy.
This defense may be slightly diminished from 2018, but it’s still pretty darn good, and this offense could theoretically become much more dynamic with a quarterback like Fields at the helm. Am I slightly worried that Nagy may just be a terrible coach? Absolutely. This is a make or break season for the HC though, so I expect him to pull out all the stops.
At the very least, I see the Bears as a playoff team again in 2021, but at +4800 odds right now on FanDuel Sportsbook, Chicago may just be the biggest sleeper pick to win Super Bowl LVI.
Which surprise franchises have a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl?
by Michael Obermuller
The NFL Draft came and went like a hurricane once again, with winners and losers grades flying in from every analyst in America. According to aggregate rankings, some of this year’s draft champions were teams like the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins. Do any of these franchises actually have a shot at the Super Bowl though?
The short answer is yes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers flipped the script in a single offseason, going from 7-9 to parade yachting through Tampa’s harbor. I know they signed the greatest quarterback the game has ever seen, but we’ve seen the NFL pull championship 180’s more often than any other sports league, and we could definitely see another dark horse Lombardi winner in February of 2022.
Based on both the NFL Draft and NFL Free Agency, here are four teams that could make the jump to SB Champs in what is now less than one calendar year away.
Now I know this one seems like a cop-out, because the Browns were pretty darn good last season, but they’re still not even favorites to win their division according to most oddsmakers right now. On FanDuel Sportsbook, Cleveland has +1700 odds to win the big game, behind the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens at +1400. To me, the Browns might have had the top draft in football, and that’s after having a solid free agency and an 11-5 record in 2020.
General manager Andrew Berry made a splash just before the draft when he signed edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. He had already bolstered the secondary in March, bringing in safety John Johnson III and corner Troy Hill(both formerly of the Los Angeles Rams), not to mention DT Malik Jackson and LB Anthony Walker elsewhere on the defense. This unit held Cleveland back in 2020, with a fluid consistency on the other side of the ball. After the signings they made, and the sleeper potential of draft picks like CB Greg Newsome II and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah(who never should have fallen out of the first round), it might be their strength just one year later.
The Brownies have been improving ever since Baker Mayfield took over at quarterback, and now this team is built to win it all. Top offensive line, ferocious pass rush, youthful secondary, blistering run game… oh, and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. set to return from injury. Cleveland somehow faces a third-place schedule with a first-place roster, and I expect them to dominate.
A lot of people had the Denver Broncos as dark horses in 2020, but I promise you that I was not one of them. Even before the Courtland Sutton and Von Miller injuries (both healthy again), I thought Denver was a few missing pieces away from contention, but they may have solved a large chunk of that puzzle this offseason. They rank 11th on the aggregate draft boards, but I actually thought they deserved a higher grade. GM George Paton did a ton of things I liked this Spring, and it all started in the secondary with signings Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. It continued in the draft.
The tweet above doesn’t even include seventh round pick Kary Vincent Jr., who I thought was one of the top value picks of the entire draft. The LSU cornerback’s rank seemed to fall after he opted out in 2020, but he was very productive the season before when the Tigers won the College Football Playoff. The Broncos needed a deep secondary that could keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, and this one can. Factor in Miller and Bradley Chubb finally pairing together off the edge, and this defense could have championship pedigree under Vic Fangio. The offense should be no slouch either, with a plethora of young weapons and the one tricky question being at quarterback (Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater set to compete).
P.S. Denver is currently the front-runner to trade for Aaron Rodgers… and that would only boost their +2400 Super Bowl odds.
The Dallas Cowboys may not have had the best draft grades in their entirety, but I thought they made a couple of very key selections early on, like middle linebacker Micah Parsons. After trading back for a couple of extra picks, the Boys drafted the top LB in the draft. Parsons is not only talented, he’s a leader with the ceiling of a Bobby Wagner type captain. They also filled their cornerback need in the second round (after missing out on Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II), drafting Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky (a solid prospect with elite speed), and UCLA defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa is another intriguing prospect nabbed in the third.
Jerry Jones and Dallas went defense, defense, and more defense this draft after dishing out $240 million to Dak Prescott this offseason, and I loved the commitment here by Jones and company. This offense was spectacular before Prescott’s injury, averaging 32.6 points per game (PPG) during the five games he started. Dak plus a healthy offensive line should put the Cowboys back near the top of the league in efficiency, but this defense was in desperate need of reinforcements, allowing the fifth most PPG last season. When you consider how many injuries the franchise suffered in 2020, plus the improvements they’ve made this Spring, they are an easy 2021 dark horse in my eyes at +2800 odds.
I’m surprising myself with this one as I’ve been one of the biggest Matt Nagy-Ryan Pace haters the past few seasons, and most Bears fans would probably agree with me after the way this franchise has been run. That could all change with one draft decision, however, the trade-up for dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields. Now you are either a Fields believer or you aren’t — and I am — ranking the Ohio State product as my QB1 in 2021 (yes, that’s including Trevor Lawrence). As expected, NFL GM’s disagreed with us Fields supporters drafting Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance over him. To be fair, I like Wilson and Lawrence and think both could be successful, Lance I’m less sure about it.
Having the game-ready Fields as the Chicago QB1 instead of Andy Dalton makes all the difference in the world when evaluating this roster’s chances, but it wasn’t just the addition of Fields that changed my entire perspective on the Bears. Pace was drafting like his life depended on it (only because it totally did), and I have to admit that he struck gold under pressure. Left tackle Teven Jenkins was a steal in the second (a first round talent that will start after the release of Charles Leno). Then guard prospect Larry Borom and cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. were also some picks with some major potential to be had.
This once-great defense still flaunts playmakers like Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn and Eddie Jackson. The defensive line should also get back 2020 opt-out Eddie Goldman alongside Akiem Hicks. So long as they get something out of corners Desmond Trufant and Jaylon Johnson, this is a formidable unit again in 2021. On the offensive side, the Bears managed to hold onto Allen Robinson, while adding interesting weapons like Damien Williams, Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin for Fields to get the ball to. There are still problems to solve, but Chicago took a major leap in the Super Bowl odds after draft night in my opinion, yet they still sit at +4800 odds on FanDuel. I may just have to take that bet.
Who will Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance and Jones play for in 2021?
by Michael Obermuller
The lead-up to the NFL Draft is a sports process like no other. The speculation, the intrigue, the misinformation and strategy used by different franchises and general managers. Considering the diverse crop of quarterback talent available in 2021, this offseason has been as wild as ever. I mean, just look at this curveball from Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer a few days before draft night.
Trevor Lawrence has been the consensus number one pick for what feels like years, and Jags owner Shad Khan has seemed pretty intent on marketing the rebirth of the franchise around the Clemson star, so why then is Meyer still choosing between three players at No. 1 overall?
It could just be due diligence from a first year NFL head coach, or maybe Lawrence to Jacksonville isn’t as much of a lock as most people thought. After all, there is certainly no reason to play mind-games with opposing GM’s when you’re the one picking first. Yet here we are left with this mysterious quote.
Don’t you worry though, I’ve seen through all the GM mumbo jumbo of the past few months and I’m confident in saying that I have figured out where each quarterback will end up — I think. Either way, I’ll give it a whirl, starting with the aforementioned Jaguars.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence(No. 1)
I know, after all that in the introduction, I’m still predicting T-Law to DUVAL? That’s right, because if Meyer wants to pull off the most shocking move in recent draft memory, he can do it without my blessing. There are a couple important things to note here though. One, Meyer is not considering Mac Jones or Trey Lance in the top spot. Could this have an influence on other franchises behind him? Urban was a premier college recruiter for a long time after all. Or perhaps he has yet to gain the respect of his fellow NFL peers, and his opinion means very little to them. Two, the former Ohio State HC and program director is likely passing on his former QB, Justin Fields. Meyer actually ranked the quarterbacks in a preseason show in June of 2020, with Lawrence first in his ranks and Fields second. His reasoning at the time was this;
The Jags could certainly throw a wrench in the entire draft by taking either Zach Wilson or Fields, which would probably send Lawrence to New York at No. 2, but it’s highly unlikely and I’m not buying it. Size, accuracy, speed, raw ability, intelligence, drive — Lawrence is the consensus number one for a reason. I’m not saying that he’s guaranteed to be the most successful NFL product, he’s not, but he is the safe bet for Jacksonville. For the sake of all our sanities, let’s move on and assume this sticks.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson(No. 2)
GM Joe Douglas and the New York Jets have traded 2018 first round pick Sam Darnold, so yes they are 100 percent taking a quarterback at two (for those who haven’t been paying attention). They have been linked to the BYU Cougars signal-caller more and more since Week 17, and I personally don’t see this changing on Thursday night. Wilson checks all the boxes for the Jets. He is an accurate passer and a competitive winner (albeit against lesser competition), known for his on-the-fly decision-making and pocket presence as well as an arm that throws just as far on the move as it does standing upright. Wilson has drawn recent comparisons to Patrick Mahomes for some of these intangible traits, but there’s a contingent of fans that still have doubts that scouts and GM’s are once again sleeping on in-your-face talent.
If Fields can translate his OSU skillset to the pros, it wouldn’t be the first time that the best and brightest NFL minds in the game are totally wrong. I mean he did run a 4.44 forty with a 70.2 completion percentage in 2020. For the record, as you’ll see throughout this article, Fields is my personal QB1 in this class, but that doesn’t mean he appeals to the teams picking in the top three.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones(No. 3)
Is the infamous “smokescreen tactic” being utilized by Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers? It’s quite possible, in fact Joe Douglas and the Jets could be using it too for all we know. If Fields truly is the quarterback with the most upside potential, it would make sense that every GM behind the Jaguars is trying to keep Meyer off their trail by talking up Wilson, Jones and Lance. At the same time, it seems even more likely that the NFL brass are once again scared off by an Ohio State product who has been labeled as a runner that struggles with his progressional reads. If Lawrence and Wilson do indeed go one-two, Fields should be the pick at three in my opinion, but he may not be according to reports.
There’s something fishy about this developing story, because Jones and Lance couldn’t be more different as prospects. I can’t deny that Mac Jones makes sense as Shanahan’s favorite option. The Niners HC has highlighted his on-field and NFL-ready intelligence, citing that the Alabama product is the win-now choice for a team that was in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Jones is also the most similar to the quarterbacks that have flourished in Shanahan’s system in the past (Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo). Lance on the other hand makes me scratch my head. He’s from a small program that did not play against NFL-type talent, he’s not game-ready by most estimations, and he’s athletic rather than accurate or experienced. The fact that San Francisco is torn between these two, but not interested in the player that is pretty much the combination of both (Fields) is odd to say the least. For these reasons, I do think there’s a chance that the 49ers are under-selling Fields on purpose, but I’ll begrudgingly stick with Jones here anyway because of how well he fits the Shanahan mold.
4. TRADE — Denver Broncos: Trey Lance(No. 4)
Some have the Atlanta Falcons taking Lance at four, but in the end I think Arthur Smith’s new offense stands pat with the reliability of Matty Ice for a couple more seasons and trades down to reconstruct this roster from the inside out. That process may not start with an inexperienced QB, but it could begin with a haul of present and future draft picks. The next question is their trade partner, and although it has not been mentioned as much as a New England or Washington Football Team, the Denver Broncos are my under-the-radar candidate to make the jump from ninth to fourth. George Paton is taking over as GM for the Broncos, and he may try and make a splash in his first NFL Draft having the final say.
Everything about Paton’s thinking for his first draft screams Lance to me. It’s unexpected, out-of-the-box, and hopefully solves the problem that John Elway failed at for years in the same position — finding a franchise quarterback. Drew Lock has yet to display any qualities that separate him from the rest of the league, so I expect Paton to jump at the opportunity to bring in someone that can compete not only with Lock, but long-term with division rivals like Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Of course, the Broncos could also go with Fields here, but I’m sticking with my theme that this inexplicable stigma drops my QB1 down to QB5. I also like the fit for Lance in Denver. He played at North Dakota State, a similar climate, and his build and physicality as a runner bear some resemblance to Elway himself. Although I’m sure Broncos fans would also take his Josh Allen comp.
5. Detroit Lions: Justin Fields (No. 7)
So where oh where will Mr. Fields land? No he won’t fall out of the top 10, and I don’t expect the Cincinnati Bengals or Miami Dolphins to trade down either when they can grab the players they covet most (Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase by all reports) at five and six. That leaves the Detroit Lions, who could choose to trade down with the Patriots or the highest bidder, but honestly why would they? The Lions roster moves have signaled a total overhaul rebuild under the new regime of Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes, and they already have enough future draft capital from the Matthew Stafford trade where they don’t need more first round picks. They need a franchise quarterback. The wrinkle that you may point out is that they also received back Jared Goff and his contract in that same deal. Let’s be honest though, Goff is a placeholder in Detroit at best. At worst, he’s a cap casualty after 2022 (when cutting him would only cost $10 million). So why not accelerate the process if Justin Fields falls into your lap?
A player with as much potential as Fields could be a dream for Holmes at No. 7 in his first NFL Draft, and the young QB could even learn under Goff as a rookie before jumpining into the NFL head-first. He can truly do it all; whether it’s his accuracy as a passer or his agility as a runner, his escapability in the pocket or strong arm on the run, his competitiveness as an premier athlete or his confidence in primetime games. I’m not sure why every team is insistent on looking past Fields, and maybe it all is a smokescreen and he goes top three, but it just feels like the NFL scouts and decision-makers are talking themselves into passing on another superstar.
With the NFL draft about a week away, some things are starting to take shape. As always, the quarterback position is a source of great intrigue. It is a foregone conclusion that the first three picks will be quarterbacks.
Then, you have three other obvious teams with some degree of a quarterback need. New England, Washington, and Denver. However, there are not that many elite quarterback prospects to go around. Also, these teams may have to move up the draft board if they want to dip into the front end of this quarterback class. Here is a closer look at all three situations.
New England and Washington
These teams are in a good spot. While the need is there, both organizations can safely ride the status quo at quarterback for another year if they choose.
When you are Bill Belichick, the hot seat doesn’t exist. His team was reasonably competitive and posted a 7-9 record with Cam Newton and his eight touchdown passes as its primary quarterback a year ago. The Patriots had a slew of players opt out because of the pandemic last year. Much of that talent will return for 2021.
New England also had an unusually active free agency period headlined by Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith They both averaged over ten yards per catch last year. Newton averaged only about seven yards per attempt. The Patriots offense has always lived and died with production from the tight end spot. Rob Gronkowski is a future Hall of Famer because of it. The offense had no pass catchers that worried defenses last year. It does now.
There is no reason the Patriots should not be back in playoff contention next year. If the front office really believes that their quarterback of the future is in this draft, they can take him, even if it is a day two prospect, but they certainly don’t have to.
Washington is in a similar situation. Ron Rivera is under no pressure of losing his job after winning the division last year using three different quarterbacks in the regular season. Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Kyle Allen threw for an average of 152 yards per game in his four starts. A team with this kind of quarterback play winning its division speaks to how well off the rest of the roster is.
As long as the pass rush remains fierce, it isn’t hard to imagine a free agent signing Ryan Fitzpatrick guiding this team to another division title. So, Washington can also put off addressing their long-term future at quarterback for another year if they want. Taking a quarterback in the mid-rounds this year is also an option. Regardless, Washington isn’t desperate for a quarterback right now.
The Broncos do not have the luxury of time. George Paton is entering his first season as general manager. He will be in Denver for the foreseeable future no matter how the 2021 season plays out.
The same cannot be said for Vic Fangio who comes in to his third season as head coach with a 12-20 record. He has to win now. Thus, the same can be said for pretty much the entire coaching staff.
There are still some believers in the talent of current quarterback Drew Lock. He only has 18 starts under his belt. Still, last year was ugly. 15 interceptions, three lost fumbles, and a 57.3 completion percentage all look even uglier when you consider Lock missed almost 3 full games during last year’s 5-11 campaign.
Lock did not have a traditional offseason last year, but that can be said for every player in the league. Joe Burrow entered the league as a rookie for an organization that hasn’t won a playoff game in about three decades. The offense of line was so bad it eventually left Burrow with a season-ending injury. Burrow still posted a passer rating close to 90. Lock didn’t have to deal with anything close to what Burrow did. Lock’s passer rating was in the mid-70s last year.
Who knows? Lock may still have a great career ahead. However, the coaching staff in Denver doesn’t have time to bet their jobs on him. He accounted for 18 turnovers in a little more than 13 games last year. That is a team killer. An ultra-athletic guy like Justin Fields is intriguing no matter where he lands. He could work in Denver.
Mac Jones takes care of the ball and could be excellent distributing to weapons like Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Melvin Gordon, K.J, Hamler, and Tim Patrick in Denver’s offense.
Trey Lance did not play much college football and is the complete unknown of this quarterback class. Even so, taking a chance on his raw talent is less of a risk for Denver than riding with Lock for another year. Despite rumored efforts, Denver was unable to land a solid veteran quarterback to fix the position. So, they must do whatever it takes to land a top prospect in the draft.