Bears should follow Eagles plan to set Justin Fields up for success – NBC Chicago
Bears should follow Eagles plan to set Fields up for success originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
When the Philadelphia Eagles arrive at Soldier Field in Week 15, we should have a good idea of the state of the Bears’ rebuilding under coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles.
The hope is that after 14 weeks, Justin Fields will have established himself as a franchise quarterback and Eberflus will have acquitted himself well as a leader and tactician.
In Week 15, the Bears should take a hard look at the Howie Roseman roster built around quarterback Jalen Hurts. A roster that got even better on Wednesday when Philadelphia signed cornerback James Bradberry to a one-year, $10 million deal.
Roseman rebuilt the Eagles on the fly in two years, and it’s a plan the Bears can try to follow starting next offseason.
At the end of the 2020 season, the Eagles fired a Super Bowl-winning coach in Doug Pederson, took a massive dead blow washing their hands of Carson Wentz, and had a roster with multiple holes.
The Eagles loved Hurts but weren’t sure he was the long-term answer. But rather than judge Hurts based on his brief stint of a rookie year with Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins as his best receivers, the Eagles got to work to improve the situation around Hurts.
The idea was simple: Improve the roster across the board and give Hurts the best chance to prove he’s a franchise QB. If he succeeds, the Eagles will have their man and a talented team. If he doesn’t, they have a winning roster that will be appealing to any top QB looking for a change of scenery.
Roseman’s first big swing actually came in the offseason ahead of the 2020 season when he acquired Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions to give his secondary an elite corner of coverage.
After a 4-11-1 in 2020, the holes in the Eagles’ roster were obvious, as was the way forward.
Philadelphia had key veterans to build around center Jason Kelce, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, point carrier Brandon Graham and tackle Lane Johnson. The secondary, outside of Slay, was a mess. Other than tight end Dallas Goedert, the skill positions were a lousy sight. The offensive line and linebacking corps were good but needed a boost.
Roseman signed veteran safety Anthony Harris to give the secondary a stabilizer at the back. Then he made a series of draft trades that ultimately ended with the selection of wide receiver DeVonta Smith Jr. and offensive lineman Landon Dickerson.
Roseman also acquired a 2022 first-round pick from the Miami Dolphins and a conditional first-round pick from the Indianapolis Colts in the Wentz trade.
After some early growing pains under first head coach Nick Sirianni, the Eagles went from 4-11-1 in 2020 to 9-8 and a wildcard spot in 2021. The offensive line paved the way for the best NFL runners. offense, Smith gave Hurts a clear No. 1 receiver, and the defense was trending up.
The Eagles were stuck by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFC Wild Card Round, but things were clearly going in the right direction. Hurts had his moments in his first full season as a starter. He threw for 3,144 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 784 yards and 10 scores.
Hurts didn’t cement himself as a franchise QB, but he did enough to allow Roseman to focus on completing the roster around him this offseason.
The big move was the 2022 NFL Draft day trade for AJ Brown. The addition of Brown allows the Eagles to move Smith to second and gives Hurts a solid arsenal of offensive weapons. But Philadelphia has done most of its work on defense. The Eagles signed linebackers Haason Reddick and Kyzir White, drafted Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean, and signed Bradberry on Wednesday, giving them two top corners.
In 18 months, Roseman transformed the Eagles from the NFC East doormat into a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
Hurts is still a question mark, but the Eagles have built a roster around him with no gaping holes. He has top targets, a powerful rushing offense and a solid defense.
The Bears have a bigger hill to climb than the Eagles.
Eberflus and the Poles received a list that had to be demolished to the posts. But good veteran players like Roquan Smith, Eddie Jackson and Robert Quinn remain. Chicago has good running backs and should have a young and talented secondary with the additions of Brisker and Gordon.
The Bears are expected to have $112 million in cap room next offseason and will likely have a top-10 draft pick.
If Fields leaves the 2021 season with his confidence intact and on an uptrend, the Bears need to follow the Eagles’ model and give Fields a fair chance to prove he can be a franchise quarterback.
The Eagles could have destroyed everything after the 2020 season, traded their veterans and put Hurts in a no-win situation. Instead, Roseman saw the potential for a quick restart around a raw but talented quarterback, knowing Philadelphia would be in a good place even if Hurts fell short.
The plan is there for the Bears to do the same starting next offseason. It would behoove them to pay close attention to the other sideline in Week 15. That might just be their fastest path to relevance.