Breaking down the Bears’ biggest questions


About a quarter of the way into a topsy-turvy 1-4 season, the Sun-Times’ Bears experts — Patrick Finley, Jason Lieser and Mark Potash — analyze the team’s biggest issues:

 The Bears’ first five weeks were:

Finley: Exhausting. The Bears crammed more controversy into the first part of their season than they had all of last year, and they only won one game. The drama, more than their play, led many to wonder whether coach Matt Eberflus is up to the task.

Lieser: A thudding letdown. Even as the Bears tried to temper expectations going into this season, they promised substantial improvement. Beating the Commanders doesn’t erase the first four games, when they looked an awful lot like they did last season. They still need to see a lot more from quarterback Justin Fields, they haven’t solved their pass rush, and the early results on several key additions are inconclusive.

Potash: Discouraging. From defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ resignation to wide receiver Chase Claypool’s demise to an Eberflus defense that can’t take the ball away or rush the passer to a Luke Getsy offense that has only produced against the two worst defenses in the NFL, the Bears have shown little evidence they’re even pointed in the right direction, let alone actually making progress. 

Do you have confidence in Eberflus?

Finley: It’s hard to, given that he has the worst career record in Bears history. The next few weeks will either change my mind or be confirming. Let’s see if his staff can make the same leap after the “mini-bye” as it did last year, when the weekend off provided time to (briefly) upgrade the offense.

Lieser: He hasn’t earned that. We didn’t learn anything about him last season with a stripped-down roster; he didn’t do any better or worse than any other coach would have. The current roster, while flawed, has potential. It’s on Eberflus to get the most out of that.

Potash: The Bears’ performance against the Commanders in a short week on the road after a tough loss was a win for Eberflus. But it was one game — against the 29th-ranked defense in the NFL. The Bears will need a few more wins like that to prove that Eberflus is making an impact. 

Can Fields keep it up?

Finley: Against the next two opponents? Absolutely. The Vikings allow the second-highest passer rating in the NFL, and the Raiders the fourth-highest. Would that be a breakthrough? No. But it would be progress. 

Lieser: He can, but the key is proving — not to the Bears, but to the rest of the NFL — that he can be a pocket passer. That doesn’t have to be the only way Fields plays, but it’s critical. Every defense is intent on keeping him in the pocket, and if he shows he can win that way, it’ll open up the rest of his game.

Potash: Yes, if he continues to get solid play from the offensive line, as he did against the Commanders’ front four Thursday night. Former Bears QBs Rex Grossman and Mitch Trubisky had moments like that in similar circumstances. The challenge for Fields, as it was for Grossman and Trubisky, is “playing quarterback” when things break down against better opponents.

The most disappointing part of general manager Ryan Poles’ plan has been:

Finley: The Bears’ pop-gun pass rush. Their struggles getting to the quarterback finally bled over to their own offense last Sunday when Eberflus decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches rather than break a tie with a field goal. He didn’t trust his defense to stop the Broncos from marching for a touchdown. The entire team paid the price.

Lieser: The sequence almost a year ago when he traded away linebacker Roquan Smith and traded for Claypool. Smith is a 26-year-old All-Pro leading an elite Ravens defense, and Claypool lasted just 10 games. 

Potash: The offensive and defensive lines remain works in progress in Week 6 of Year 2. The offensive line was stellar against the Commanders but still has to prove it can stay healthy and be consistently effective. The defensive line might need rookie tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens to accelerate their first-year developmental arcs to provide the boost that unit needs. 

Watch this player going forward:

Finley: Rookie Roschon Johnson has a physical running style that jibes with the Bears’ offensive personality. By the last month of the season, he’ll be leading the team in carries each week.

Lieser: Wide receiver DJ Moore. The only thing surprising about his surge of production was that it didn’t begin in Week 1. The Commanders game was the first time this season that Moore got 10 targets. That should be his new minimum.

Potash: Receiver Darnell Mooney. Moore figures to get more attention from defenses after a career-best performance against the Commanders. With Claypool traded, it’ll be up to Mooney to take advantage of opportunities that should materialize.

Are the Bears on the right track?

Finley: No! They’re 1-4. But Fields’ chemistry with Moore the last two weeks makes game days interesting at least, and that’s more than we could say after Week 3.

Lieser: No. There’s a ton more work to do with this roster, and the coaching staff is on notice. Again, a win over the Commanders doesn’t negate everything else we’ve seen.

Potash: Never underestimate the mediocrity of the NFL. The Bears’ remaining opponents are a combined 20-28, with the 3-1 Lions (home and away) the only one with a winning record. The Bears will face better teams (and certainly better defenses) than the Broncos and Commanders, but not that much better. So even if the Bears aren’t good, they still have a chance to look good. 

The Bears will finish the season:

Finley: 4-13. Winning a quarter of their games the rest of the way means they’ll have to rely on the Panthers to earn them the No. 1 overall pick.

Lieser: 5-12. That’s the worst it looked like they could be this season. And if they’re that bad, they need major changes.

Potash: 6-11. Beating the Commanders was a good sign Fields and the offense are making progress. But they’re still as prone to regress as they are to take another step forward against better competition. The big question is, how much better will the competition be?


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