In recent weeks, the Chicago Bears have seen an unheard of amount of offensive success and positivity.
The development is unheard of because the long running mantra of this franchise has been to play good defense and play ball control offensive football. And even though that mantra has given the Bears just one Super Bowl appearance this century, the organization has been adamant on keeping it a strong staple across the franchise.
This season has been no different, with Matt Eberflus being hired to continue the tradition, and Ryan Poles leading the charge to seemingly bring in the necessary players to make sure the mantra remains alive and well.
Defensively, the way the Bears have gone about their business to carry on this tradition has been questionable at best. More so in a way that it’s hard to gauge the direction when two defensive standouts have been traded, and a group of talented rookies playing a lot of snaps, but all with unknown potential.
Offensively though, the Bears have held onto their ball control standard.
Their league leading rushing attack remains a key part of this offense, even during an age of high flying aerial passing attacks and young quarterbacks throwing making impossible derived from their limitless talent and potential.
But there’s been a new wrinkle from the Bears — at least according to their standards — as they’ve shied away from heavily leaning on extreme pro style concepts as the foundation of their offense. Instead, they’ve given into the temptation mobile quarterbacks possess — I.E. Justin Fields — and are currently running an offense centered around the athletic gifts they’ve normally never bought into previously as an organization.
The results have been impressive, with Fields putting together a recent stretch of rushing performances that have garnered respect from a plethora of peers, coaches, and fans across the league.
Even more importantly, he’s beginning to show true progress in his development, which had been a concern for Fields over the first season and some change of his young NFL career.
However, the downside of this sudden commitment to getting Fields more involved within the offense — more specifically, depending on his legs on designed runs — has begun to rear its ugly head as well.
Justin Fields took about 20 real hits today, when you combine sacks and rushing attempts. And it's really starting to show.— Robert Mays (@robertmays) November 20, 2022
Don't know exactly where the "too much" line is for designed QB runs, but I'd say 15 is well over it.
That specific downside is related to injuries and the Bears were unlucky enough to witness the negative development play out in real time, as Fields struggled to play through a shoulder injury he suffered in the fourth quarter.
The injury was a cruel reminder of the risks you take when you invest a large portion of your offense into your quarterback’s athleticism.
The rewards are great, as evidenced by Fields’ last two rushing performances prior to today’s game. But the risk factor has to be in play at times as well, or you’ll run into more negative scenarios like the Bears faced today.
An easy for the risk factor would be to limit the amount of carries Fields gets, at least from a designed perspective.
That’s difficult to do though, since his legs have opened up an offense that was once one of the more difficult to watch offenses in all of football.
For a staff that still wants to win, do they prioritize Fields’ on field development with full support? Or do they look at the long term future and save Fields from running into an injury wall now and potentially down the road?
It’s a tough call, especially with how competitive the staff and team is collectively.
However, if the Bears had their best interests in mind, they’d settle down on giving Fields a massive amount of carries, just to save Fields from any sort of injuries that can develop.
Whatever the Bears decide to do moving forward, there has to be more thought put into Fields’ short term and long term health.
If that includes cutting down on designed runs, then so be it.
You should desire a stable injury situation for your quarterback, even if that comes with moving away from such a successful offensive staple that has given you a lot of be excited about it recent weeks.
Featured image via Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports