The Chicago Bears have more control over their future this week than in any other this season.
They face the Carolina Panthers (1-7) at home. And, in addition to controlling their own first-round pick, they also have the rights to the Panther’s pick in 2024.
That has them potentially set up to select the quarterback of their choosing. For now, they are both struggling to show any consistency. But this week can be viewed as a potential referendum on the Bears’ decision to trade out of the No. 1 pick and the chance at Young.
Bears’ Decision to Pass on Bryce Young Back in the Spotlight
1) Bryce Young vs. Bears QB
Young, like most rookies, is having a typically uneven season, completing 63.9% of his passes for 1,375 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He’s also fumbled four times. He lost three of them occurred in the first three weeks of the season, though.
The undersized passer, Young, also has a 9.4% sack rate which is the seventh-highest in the NFL, tied with Desmond Ridder of the Atlanta Falcons.
That mark is still 3.5% (and five spots) better than that of Bears quarterback Justin Fields.
Bryce Young leads Carolina’s first 4Q GW drive at home since Week 5, 2018. pic.twitter.com/jiDas91zjS
— John Ellis (@1PantherPlace) November 1, 2023
Fields missed the last three weeks with a thumb injury. But he has a chance to make his return after limited practices to start the week, though neither has been full-bore. Over his last 10 quarters of play, however, Fields completed 66.2% of his passes for 675 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions.
In his absence, Bagent has completed 67.3% of his throws for 697 yards and three scores with six interceptions. He has also fumbled the ball twice, losing two of them as he often belied strong first three quarters in games with abysmal fourth-quarter performances.
They will catch a Panthers team missing EDGE Brian Burns and cornerback C.J. Henderson.
2) Bears’ Pass Rush Has to Get Home
Young’s propensity to take sacks bodes well for a Bears defense that still sits at the bottom of the league despite heavily investing in the position starting in the offseason. With the addition of Montez Sweat at the trade deadline, the pressure is undoubtedly ratcheted up. Sweat was unable to get home in his debut versus the New Orleans Saints in Week 9.
He showed up on the game tape, however, leading the team with three quarterback hurries. His impact also showed in the advanced stat sheet. But he and the rest of the front have to produce sacks to help take pressure off of themselves.
The Panthers have the third-worst pass-blocking group this season, per Pro Football Focus, which should help.
As should Jaquan Brisker’s return to a now fully healthy starting secondary.
3) Penalties, Penalties, Penalties
Second-year tackle Braxton Jones leads the way with four false starts despite missing six weeks with a neck injury.
Darnell Wright (3), Larry Borom (2), and Cole Kmet (2) are the only others with more than one.
4) Roquan Smith’s Comments
This is more of a look back. Baltimore Ravens linebacker – and former Bears star – Roquan Smith had some choice words in reflecting on his trade from Chicago last season.
“If I would’ve stayed there, honestly, [I] wouldn’t have been able to compete for a title anytime soon,” Smith told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated on November 6. “It makes me so happy, just knowing my career is not going down the drain, in the sense of playing somewhere where I’m not truly competing for a title.”
Smith and the Bears fell out very publicly before they traded him.
The Bears got a second-round pick back in that deal. That is a similar price tag to what they placed on cornerback Jaylon Johnson ahead of this season’s trade deadline. It will be interesting to see how those negotiations – and those of Darnell Mooney – play out.
They surely have already formed their own opinions on the matter. But Smith’s comments undoubtedly still reverberate inside a Bears locker room that he still has ties to.