Analyzing the Bears through 6 games

A third into the 18-week season – the Bears play 17 games and have a bye – Sun-Times reporter Patrick Finley gives a testimony:

What is Matt Eberflus’ grade after 6 games?

C. As expected – and required by his HITS system – Eberflus trains a team that plays hard with every snap. Despite a performance gap between defense, which is competent, and offense, which isn’t, they are yet to break. But the Bears’ primary goal this season is to develop Fields into a franchise quarterback — and they’re stuck in the mud on that front.

Justin Fields getting better or worse?

The numbers say he’s getting worse. Fields is averaging fewer yards per game and has a lower passer rating this year than last season. His release and interception rates are higher this year than last year. However, the Bears are treating this season as a 17-game test, and the quarterback’s growth is rarely incremental. If Fields can figure it out — and if his coaches figure out the best way to use him — those numbers can change quickly.

What’s one change the bears need to make offensively?

The bears need to find a way to better protect fields schematically. That means more screens and quick throws, play-action passes that get him moving and cutting in half, and — yes — passing the ball on some obvious passing downs. The only thing worse for the franchise than Fields is that he’s sitting on the sidelines injured. You must find a way to get him to week 17 unharmed.

What is the biggest problem faced by the bears overall?

The same problem they face in March and August — and one they also face in November, December and January: They lack the offensive playmakers to properly gauge Fields. Velus Jones’ fumbles don’t make her decision to not draft a receiver in Round 2 look any wiser.

What was the best surprise?

This season is all about finding players who can star on the next good Bears team. Running back Khalil Herbert has proven he can start in 2023 and beyond.

What was the biggest disappointment?

Defensive end Robert Quinn has a sack after setting a franchise record with 18.5 last year. Quinn is one of the few valuable shares the bears were able to trade through the November 1 deadline. You need him to show signs of life first.

What is your revised prediction for the bears’ final balance sheet?

Still 6-11. If we’ve learned anything about the NFL this season, it’s that anyone can be mediocre in any given week if you discount half a dozen teams.