Welcome back, Bears fans! We are just a week out from the Bears’ first game of the 2021 season and it couldn’t be here a moment too soon.
I took a little hiatus from writing over the summer, with my last entry coming during April’s draft. A lot has happened since then and I’ve got thoughts on a number of issues.
Let’s get to the Bears Beat.
Teven Jenkins’ injury a major damper
I’m going to start with thoughts on the player I last wrote about, and that’s second-round rookie Teven Jenkins. The freshman tackle recently underwent back surgery and missed all of training camp.
At first blush, this is an awful look. Bears fans have been down this road before, witnessing a high draft pick begin his career with back trouble. For all the plaudits heaped upon general manager Ryan Pace for aggressively trading up to get Jenkins in the draft, it quickly can become scorn if Jenkins’ career fizzles before it even gets started.
I’m not going to panic at this point. Sure, it’d have been nice if Jenkins could have stepped in at left tackle from Day 1 and been a cornerstone piece for the next decade, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, let’s see if the surgery — which Pace said “fixed the problem” — can get Jenkins into the lineup at some point this season.
I’m trusting the process with Justin Fields
I realize I’m in the minority here when I say this, but I trust Matt Nagy’s plan for rookie quarterback Justin Fields. I know Bears fans want to see the youngster on the field wowing us with his big arm and athleticism. But there’s a reason Nagy is a head coach and the rest of us are not.
Yes, it’s clear that Fields stole the show in the preseason and outplayed the veteran Andy Dalton. But what is equally clear is that Dalton played sparingly and the “Red Rifle” was playing with an empty chamber. I want to see what Dalton can do when the Bears’ full offense steps onto the field opening night next weekend.
I’m with you guys. I feel like Fields is not only the better athlete but has the capability to make bigger plays. But if you think he’s without flaws, you’re in for a rude awakening. The kid is a rookie and all rookies make mistakes. It will take time for him to read intricate NFL defenses, which is exactly what teams like the Rams will bring beginning next week.
While I understand that the only way to learn and overcome is to play through it, the Bears aren’t willing to undergo those growing pains just yet.
The Bears are trying to make the playoffs. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. This is all of their jobs on the line, and they’re trying to keep them. If they honestly thought Fields gave them a better chance to win in primetime on the road against a strong opponent, why would they sit him?
In due time, at some point this season, I feel we will see Fields. Until then, stop rooting for Dalton — and the Bears — to be bad, just so you can get the occasional wow moment from the rook.
Bears keep five tight ends
Among the moves the Bears made to finalize their 53-man roster, keeping five tight ends had to rank as one of the biggest surprises.
We were expecting them to keep veteran Jimmy Graham and second-year pro Cole Kmet, of course. The former still has amazing red zone prowess and the latter is going to take a big sophomore step. But the Bears also kept a trio of other tight ends in preseason standout Jesper Horsted, veteran Jesse James and J.P. Holtz.
Special teams will be a requirement for most of these guys at the bottom. It’s hard to envision much action on offense for them given the number of other mouths to feed. I’m not going to put much emphasis on the preseason, but I do like Horstead as a depth piece and James has had a moderately productive career as well.
Speed, speed, and more speed!
Wow, does Nagy have a penchant for collecting fast players. The Bears already have Darnell Mooney at the top of their depth chart as the second-year pro will start opposite Allen Robinson. But the Bears brought in veterans Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd, both of whom made the final cut. They picked up Nsimba Webster — a dynamic returner — and journeyman Breshad Perriman.
Now, whether these guys actually all contribute or not will be the hot question as the season unfolds. But I’m curious nonetheless what Nagy can do to position them like chess pieces to strike opposing defenses.
Key injuries to watch
Tarik Cohen did not return yet from his torn ACL last year. He’s still recovering and rehabbing and will begin the season on the PUP list.
Joining him on the sideline will be Jenkins — who I’ve already discussed — and veteran linebacker Danny Trevathan, both of whom will begin the year on injured reserve.
Jenkins is no surprise, although is disappointing, as I’ve mentioned. Trevathan, however, is a surprise and he’s eligible to return to the lineup no earlier than Week 4 as he deals with some knee soreness.
As a veteran with a lot of miles on him, it’s better to be extra cautious so that you can get the most out of him later in the season. In the meantime, Alec Ogletree will start alongside Roquan Smith and I’ve always been fond of his career and the kind of playmaker he is. If he plays successfully in Trevathan’s stead, I’ll be awfully curious to see what kind of workload awaits the duo moving forward.
Here’s hoping Jason Peters has one more year left in him
Starting in place of the injured Jenkins will be 9-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters. What can we say about him other than he’s been a dominant force for a long time. He’s also 39 years old and I worry about him holding up physically, as well as being able to block dynamic speed rushers at this stage of his career.
It could be worse. The Bears could have Elijah Wilkinson starting over there, protecting the blindside of Dalton, and eventually Fields. For now, Peters just has to play at a fraction of the level he once played at in order to be a reliable piece to the puzzle.
Bears welcome back two key linemen
Lastly, I want to talk about two key pieces that return to the lineup for the Bears. One is on the offensive line and the other on defense.
James Daniels was playing at an extremely high level last year before suffering a season-ending pec injury. If he comes back and plays at the same level at which he left off, David Montgomery is going to be finding some great run lanes up the middle.
On the defensive line, the Bears are welcoming back Eddie Goldman, who opted out last season due to COVID-19 concerns. It is indescribable how impactful Goldman is in run defense. He clogs up the middle of the line and helps break up plays before they even get started. A powerful run defense is a springboard for success and the Bears are well on their way.
It’s good to have fans back
Here we go! Let’s get this season started the right way. The Bears have a tall order in place, opening on the road in primetime against a good opponent like the Rams. I think it’s a good test for a team that has playoff aspirations this year.
I’m excited to hear real crowd noise this season. No more of that piped-in stuff. Fans just add atmosphere to the game. I’m hoping the newest strand of the coronavirus is kept at bay and that fans can continue flocking to stadiums all season long.
For now, let’s get ready for a wild ride in 2021. Bear down!