Expect further personnel changes when the Bears take on the Lions this Sunday, and when they close out the season against the Vikings the week after.
“Certainly we're going to move guys around a little bit,” Matt Eberflus said. “Potentially offensive line, defensive line, but it's not any big shift.”
The Bears have already tinkered with their lineups and personnel groupings over the past few weeks. We’ve seen things like Justin Jones moving from defensive tackle to defensive ends in certain scenarios, and a rotation between Larry Borom and Dieter Eiselen at left guard with Cody Whitehair out. With so many players on IR and nursing other injuries, Eberflus indicated that the team couldn’t go crazy with new combinations, so any new changes would be along the lines of the changes we’ve already seen.
All of this begs the question, if the Bears are going to tinker with the offensive line should they also bench Justin Fields? If the team keeps swapping between players up front in the name of evaluating their roster, could they be endangering their franchise quarterback in the process? It’s a similar conversation to the one that was had earlier this year when Fields separated his shoulder. If Fields is at risk of hurting himself even more, should the team just sit him down?
“Our first priority is player safety, No. 1,” Eberflus said earlier this month when talking about Fields playing with his shoulder injury.
Fields’ safety will always be the team’s first consideration, and clearly they wouldn’t play him if they thought it would cause harm. They wouldn’t play anyone else if they thought it could endanger others either. Regardless, playing with a rotating cast on the line is not ideal and makes it harder for Fields to succeed. On the surface that seems like an obvious reason not to make changes on the offensive line, but the Bears see it as a learning opportunity.
“When you’re a quarterback you’re gonna have adversity during the course of the season,” Eberflus said. “You’re going to have some linemen out. You’re going to have some skill-sets that aren’t gonna be there and he’s got to figure that out. We have to figure that out as coaches. We have to be able to figure it out and maneuver. How do we move the ball down the field when this Person X is out or Person Z is out? We’ve just got to figure it out. It’s good for the coaches, too, as well as Justin.”
Fields has already been presented with those challenges over the past few games, and the offense hasn’t operated as effectively as it was back in October and November. Regardless, the team has been encouraged by what they’ve seen from Fields when the odds have been stacked against him.
“If you look at how he is progressing during the course of the year with all the different lineups up front, all the different receiver lineups, with losing Herbert for quite an extended period of time, I think he has done well,” Eberflus said. “You know he has improved his game, and we are excited to see where these last two games are gonna go.”
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