NFL Winners, Losers: Justin Fields blinks while 49 players have questions

Finally, games are important.

The first week of the NFL season is here, as the reigning Super Bowl Los Angeles Rams kick off the season Thursday night against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.

The Matt Eberflus era will begin on September 11 in Chicago when the Bears welcome Trey Lance and the San Francisco 49ers to Soldier Field.

The past month of pre-season action has given us an early indication of where the teams will stand as they enter week one.

Bands like the Bills and Kansas City Chiefs appear as advertised, while the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys appear to have serious issues.

As for the Bears, Justin Fields and Offensive have made slow and steady progress installing their new system. The offensive line is starting to gather and the defense should be better than expected.

The past month has been kind to some teams and given some a rude wake-up.

Here are the winners and losers of the NFL pre-season:

Winner: Bears

The Bears went 3-0 in preparation for the season. While that’s not worth much, the offensive progress they’ve made, along with the showing quarterback Justin Fields put him in the final against the Cleveland Browns, should make those preparing to stream to Soldier Field this fall. optimistic about the future.

The sophomore quarterback spent his sabbatical working on footwork, mechanics, and pocket attendance. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme promises to play to Fields’ strengths, and we’ve seen how deadly pairing skill and system can be during the final pre-season game.

The fields have improved markedly, but much remains to be done.

“Yeah, I think there’s been progress,” General Manager Ryan Pauls said of Fields. “He seemed relaxed. I think before, again, I kind of talked about all this, his technique, his fundamentals, his feet, and then the new attack, the new coaches, the new system, there’s a lot of it going on on a physical level. And mentally. So, I thought it was. With pre-season and into training you can see things start to slow down, he reads defenses faster and pulls the trigger, and it was really cool to see it end that way.

“With the start of the season, you don’t want to overestimate the pre-season. You don’t want to underestimate it. It’s somewhere in the middle. So, it was a positive, so we’ll take that, and let’s just see. The lights will come on and that’s going to be real and they’ll count, so We’ll see from there, but I’m happy with the progress.”

It was a turbulent August for the Bears, as the drama of Roquan Smith’s contract and Teven Jenkins’ business speculation overshadowed any field progress. But Smith has terminated his contract and will complete the last year of his contract. The addition of the 25-year-old full-back added some dynamism to defensive coordinator Alan Williams and gave coach Matt Ebervloss the game-changer he needed at the back line Will.

As for Jenkins, his move to guard in late August was a success. Jenkins seems to have secured the right starting point after two pre-season games and a handful of practice, and it looks like Will stay in Chicago this chapter.

Rebuilding the bear family will take time, but progress has been made through August.

Loser: San Francisco 49ers

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has turned the keys to sophomore quarterback Tre Lance this off season with Jimmy Garoppolo expected to be elsewhere by week one.

This is not the case.

With no teams willing to take on Garoppolo’s contract, 49 players and the veteran player agreed to reduced salaries to keep Garoppolo as a spare party. Garoppolo was away from the team during camp but is now back in the locker room loving him as the man looking over Lance’s shoulder.

It feels like a chemical experiment can go wrong.

On the court, Lance showed flashes of his rare talent but he was far from perfect. Add a weak interior offensive line situation, and the 49ers might have a bumpy road out of the gates with Garoppolo waiting in the wings if Lance falters.

Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles actually won the season when they replaced AJ Brown, signed James Bradbury, and drafted Jordan Davis and Nakobi Dean.

But general manager Howie Rosman is not done.

Prior to cut-off day, the Eagles traded their 2023 fifth-round pick and the last of their sixth-round picks in 2024 to New Orleans Saints for Chauncey Gardner Johnson and the Saints’ 2025 seventh-round pick.

Gardner-Johnson was the latest in a string of brilliant moves Roseman has made to quickly convert the Eagles from a rebuilding project to a Super Bowl contender.

The Eagles’ fate will likely depend on the progress of Galen Hurts this season, but all the pieces are in a deep playoff.

Loser: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have had a tough experience since Dak Prescott failed to manage the endgame in Dallas’ loss to 49 players.

Due to cap restrictions, the Cowboys lost wide receiver Amary Cooper, offensive tackle Lyle Collins, and guard Connor Williams.

Dallas’ offensive line got worse last week when superstar Tyrone Smith suffered an avulsion fracture of the knee that will force him to miss most of the season.

The Cowboys are said to be working on a deal with veteran Jason Peters, but their offensive line is clearly a shell of strength he used to be.

Don’t be surprised if Mike McCarthy is the first coach to be fired if the Cowboys get off to a slow start.

Winner: Mitchell Trubesky

After spending a season at Brian Dabol School of Continental Rehabilitation in Buffalo, the Bears’ first-round pick appears to have won the first job in Pittsburgh during pre-season.

Trubisky ran with those throughout the camp and capped his pre-season by going 15 for 19 for 160 yards in the Steelers pre-season finale. That performance would likely be enough to alienate rookie Kenny Beckett, who has also had an impressive showing season.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has yet to announce who his starting player will be in the first week against the Cincinnati Bengals. But all signs point to Trubisky getting a second chance to prove he could be a major player in the NFL.

“I think I just showed that I can manage this attack, I can lead this attack, and I have what it takes to help this team win games,” Trubesky said after the end of the Steelers pre-season.

First-round picks always get second chances in the NFL. But it is difficult to find third opportunities. The Steelers believe they have the talent to win the Super Bowl by playing strong in the middle. Is Trubisky able to make it happen at the brutal AFC North?

Loser: New England Patriots

Bill Belichick’s decision to turn his offense over to the combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge was always a bad idea.

Early returns weren’t good.

The Patriots’ attack struggled to do anything positive during pre-season. Belichick, Judge and Patricia worked at all times to adjust the offense to work within the training limits of the assistants. The plan was to modify Josh McDaniels’ system to play faster and more efficiently.

This did not happen.

During the Patriots’ final pre-season game against the Las Vegas Raiders backups, starting offense gained one yard and one penalty committed in four outside runs, a new staple in the offense. Correct tackle Isaiah Wayne allowed two rounds and let Blitzer take off on quarterback McJones.

Basically, nothing worked.

Jones is entering a critical second season, but Belichick’s decision not to step out of the family to hire the OC could hurt the long-term development of the quarterback.

Can Hoody fix what Patricia and Judge broke?

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