Asked for his favorite play from his 335-yard, four-touchdown game against the Broncos — a play that indicated growth as a quarterback — Justin Fields didn’t hesitate.
“I think the third-and-nine to DJ,” Fields said, referring to a quick-reflex dart to DJ Moore from midfield with a free edge rusher bearing down on him for an 11-yard gain and a first down on a third-quarter touchdown drive. “We went on two, but my boy Lucas [center Lucas Patrick] blacked out and snapped it on the first set-go, so that’s why we had some guys unblocked. That was one play I could take away from Sunday that I liked for sure.”
That’s how the Bears are rolling these days — even good plays involve some kind of offensive line issue. The line has redefined the meaning of “work-in-progress,” where even the good is not without its challenges.
Rookie right tackle Darnell Wright, the No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft, has been a bright spot through four games as a plug-and-play starter. But even while his rookie mistakes have been minimal, a rare misplay Sunday was critical — missing a block on linebacker Alex Singleton, who stopped Khalil Herbert for no gain on a fourth-and-one at the Broncos 18-yard-line with 2:57 left in the fourth quarter.
Wright almost certainly will have better days and better big moments. But the Bears’ offensive line as a unit continues to be a mixed bag, searching for continuity as well as excellence. The Bears are 29th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.
And now the degree-of-difficulty steps up against the Commanders on Thursday night at FedEx Field. The Commanders are 29th in the NFL in points allowed after playing the Super Bowl-contending Bills (37-3 loss) and Eagles (a 34-31 loss in overtime) the past two weeks. But their defensive front is one of the best in the NFL — sixth in the NFL in sacks. The Broncos were 27th coming into last week.
It’s a line as strong on the inside as it is on the outside with defensive tackles Jonathan Allen (two sacks in 2023) and Daron Payne (one sack) flanked by ends Chase Young (2.5 sacks) and Montez Sweat (three sacks). All of them are home-grown, first-round picks.
“It’s a challenge every week,” Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “Now you put the level of talent these guys have, it’s pretty incredible. The two interior guys [are] as good as anybody in this league — being able to diagnose what’s going on, get two hands on an offensive lineman, see what’s happening in the backfield, and then react.
“We have to do a really good job to try to be creative and get every aspect of our game going.”
That in itself will be a challenge for the Bears’ ever-changing offensive line. The Bears could get a boost if left guard Teven Jenkins returns after missing the first four games with a right calf injury. Jenkins could be activated off injured reserve after practicing on a short week. Cody Whitehair presumably would move from left guard to center in place of Patrick if Jenkins returns.
If Jenkins returns, the line still will have to get it together quickly. With Larry Borom at left tackle for injured starter Braxton Jones, it would be the Bears’ 14th different starting combination in 22 games under coach Matt Eberflus.