49ers should be careful not to overlook Bears

CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 27: Quarterback Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 27: Quarterback Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

To get ready for Week 1, we sat down with a Chicago Bears expert who says teams like the 49ers shouldn’t overlook them in 2022.

If you look around any sort of perceived pecking order within the National Football League heading into another regular season, the Chicago Bears are almost always at or near the bottom. As a team that cleaned house in the front office and the sidelines, it makes sense to expect very little from them and there are significant roster holes for new GM Ryan Poles to address.

However, there are some bright spots here on the roster beginning at the most important position on the field. Justin Fields was a promising rookie who has shown improvement in his second preseason and the Bears might have the hardest part figured out already. New draft picks are already impressive, and leaders with fresh eyes have the fan base energized.

The San Francisco 49ers are heavy favorites, even on the road, against the Bears in Week 1, and the disparity between the franchises can be found in NFL Power Rankings as well. But in an effort to get to know the Bears better before Sunday afternoon, our friend Rob Schwartz, editor for Bear Goggles On, says no team—including the Niners—should so easily dismiss Chicago. Here’s our Q&A with Schwartz below:

How ready does Justin Fields look for the regular season and what are the expectations for him in year two?

Justin Fields looks very ready for the regular season. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko have been able to change up some specific mechanics for Fields. For one, he is now stepping first with his left foot instead of his right foot while backpedaling. This seems like a minor change, but it has helped him get the ball out faster. His throwing mechanics and footwork are already showing signs of progress too.

The key here will be if Fields can maintain that discipline or if he will revert back to his old ways. Preseason would suggest he has a firm handle on it. He also has a strong grasp of the offense and we saw that vs the Browns in the third preseason game. Fields has the ability to throw every type of pass and expectations for him are very high.

How worried are Bears fans about the weapons at Fields’ disposal?

Bears fans are very worried, but I think the biggest concern is about the offensive line. Reports are that they might be shaking things up again this week and I have an issue with a lack of continuity heading into Week 1. They have a fifth-round draft pick in Braxton Jones starting at left tackle. They have a fifth-round rookie from 2021 in Larry Borom starting at right tackle. Neither of them will be able to fully contain Nick Bosa and that 49ers defensive front.

The Bears will need to move the pocket and attack the line with the run game, the only area that I feel somewhat confident in with this line. Fields will be fine with Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet as receiving targets, however, they don’t have any guaranteed options behind them. Their third-round rookie WR, Velus Jones, Jr. is looking like a game-time decision for this week. They will be counting on the likes of Dante Pettis, Equanimeous St. Brown, and hopefully Byron Pringle—all guys who have shown minimal production in the past.

What would constitute a good year in Matt Eberflus’ first season?

If the Chicago Bears can win six or more games and Justin Fields looks like he has taken steps in the right direction, then that would constitute a good year for Matt Eberflus and the Chicago Bears. The team needs to continue to show discipline. They have shown it already in the preseason with their lack of penalties—specifically pre-snap penalties. Can that continue into the season? This will be the key to success for this team and should lead to some wins that many in the national media are not expecting.

The Bears took a pair of defensive backs with their top picks. How are they looking so far?

The Chicago Bears’ secondary was a mess in 2021. General manager Ryan Poles saw a weakness and attacked it in the 2022 NFL Draft by selecting cornerback Kyler Gordon with his first of two picks in the second round and then safety Jaquan Brisker with the second of his second-round picks. Many (including myself) critiqued him for not addressing the wide receiver position with one of those picks, but early returns from the offseason are pointing to both becoming top-of-the-line talents at their positions.

Gordon was dealing with an injury early in camp, but has since returned and has looked great. His ball-hawking skills will come in handy for a team that struggled with turnovers the last couple of years. Signs are pointing to him shifting from the nickel to the outside depending on what formation they are in and who their opponents are. Brisker is dealing with a thumb injury that required surgery. This could limit him a bit in Week 1, but he has the tools to overcome it.

Trey Lance will need to be on the lookout as this secondary went from one of the worst in the league to potentially one of the best overnight.

The Niners are serious favorites in this opening week. Are you also expecting a loss?

I think everyone is expecting a loss in Week 1. However, as most are aware, Week 1 can be weird in the NFL. You see teams like the Jaguars winning games against Super Bowl contenders at times. I think too many people are writing this Bears team off with an expected win total of three games or less.

My Bear Goggles are on too tight, I guess, because not only do I think they can beat the 49ers in Week 1, I have money riding on the game. I also have bets pending in multiple places that the Bears will hit the over of 6.5 wins this season. Matt Eberflus runs a tight ship and this team is very well-disciplined. The key here is that they string a few wins together, though. You can lose a locker room quickly as a coach if the losses pile up. Losses can become contagious and players will lose faith in the coaches’ systems if they start to feel like it’s not working. We saw that firsthand with Matt Nagy as head coach.