The Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders meet on Sunday at Soldier Field without their starting quarterbacks.
Justin Fields is out for the Bears with a right thumb injury and the Raiders’ Jimmy Garoppolo will miss the game with a back injury. So it will be a battle of the replacements as the Bears (1-5) look to win their second game of the season behind rookie Tyson Bagent and the Raiders (3-3) look to build a winning streak behind Brian Hoyer or Aidan O.” Connell.
As kick-off approaches, here is our snapshot of the game.
Players in the spotlight
Undrafted rookie out of Division II Shepherd will make his first career start while Fields recovers from a thumb injury he suffered Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Bagent was called upon to step up in the second half of the game, completing 10 of 14 passes for 83 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a lost fumble in the Vikings’ 19-13 win.
Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney said Friday he believes Bagent is “up to speed” as a starter after a full week of practice.
“He’ll be fine,” Mooney said. “He’s in rhythm with everything. He has a clock in his head. He knows when he wants to get the ball out and he knows who he wants to get the ball to on certain plays.
“He said it was different that he got all the reps than him getting no reps. So he’s definitely more confident and definitely more comfortable with the game plan.”
It remains to be seen whether this will be Bagent’s only chance to start.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus said Fields is not currently on track to undergo surgery or go on injured reserve and gave a positive update on his recovery.
“The mobility is better, the swelling has gone down, the grip strength is better,” said Eberflus. “The trend is going in the right direction. He will be there week by week and we will know more on Monday.”
Will Davante Adams’ frustration carry over to the Bears?
The Bears know Adams well from his eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers — and the 81 catches for 1,024 yards and 10 touchdowns he had against Chicago during that time. But it will be the first time they face him since the Packers traded him to the Raiders in 2022.
Adams had an up and down season with Garoppolo. He caught 13 passes for 172 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 24, but then had a season-low two catches for 29 yards on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Adams, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, told ESPN this week that he is “frustrated” with his role with the Raiders.
Cornerbacks coach Jon Hoke said the Bears obviously take note when a player expresses such frustrations during the week they are supposed to defend him. Hoke began his compliments for Adams by calling him “extremely competitive,” but that was just the beginning.
“He understands what the defense is trying to do,” Hoke said. “He’s very clever. He is a challenge because of his physical abilities, his competitiveness and his ability to change pace on tracks.”
The Bears were lucky not to have to face Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson last week when the defense had one of its best performances, although Bears defenders said they would have liked to play him.
“We love playing with quality receivers,” safety Jaquan Brisker said. “We would have liked to have had Jefferson there last week, but he just didn’t play. So this week we have a big challenge in Davante Adams. We love the challenge. We will accept the challenge and be ready for 17th place this week.”
Keep an eye on…
Brian Hoyer (or Aidan O’Connell)
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels wouldn’t tell reporters before Friday’s practice whether he wants the veteran Hoyer or the rookie O’Connell in the starting lineup Sunday, although the Tribune’s Brad Biggs expects Hoyer to be in the starting lineup.
Hoyer, 38, has started 40 games and 78 with eight teams since 2009, including five starts with the Bears in 2016. However, he has started just three games since 2018.
The Bears’ 2016 season was the last time he won a game in which he started. But he helped the Raiders to a win against the Patriots last week when Garoppolo was injured.
“Hoyer had a lot of ball,” Eberflus said. “He’s seen a lot of coverage. He has seen everything. So he’s attended a lot of meetings with Josh, so they have a certain level of familiarity there. He has a good feel for this offense. There was a comfort level there. He has solid mobility to escape when needed… but that’s not what he does. He’s a rhythm passer.”
O’Connell, who started one season at Stevenson High, was a walk-on at Purdue before starting 26 games and throwing for 9,219 yards for the Boilermakers from 2019-22.
The 2023 fourth-round pick made his first start in a 24-17 loss in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 238 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, was sacked seven times and lost two of his three fumbles.
Guard Teven Jenkins said this week required “an abundance of communication” as the Bears dealt with even more injuries on offense.
They are already missing left tackle Braxton Jones, who is on injured reserve with a neck injury. Right guard Nate Davis is out with an ankle injury, and right tackle Darnell Wright is dealing with a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, although Eberflus said he should be ready to play on Sunday.
The Bears have had five starting offensive line combinations in six games this season and are approaching their sixth Sunday. Jenkins said there have been many conversations about what each player wants and expects.
“It’s just a matter of understanding that we need to do different combo blocks with different guys and understanding what certain guys need from other guys as far as fit and pro,” he said. “It’s about taking to the streets together as a unit to make sure we have the same confidence and communication.”
Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby has 5 1/2 sacks, eight quarterback hits and eight tackles for a loss in six games. No other Raiders player has more than one sack.
“He gets attention because of his effort,” Eberflus said of Crosby. “That’s what jumps off. Of course, he is a great athlete and has great flexibility, allowing him to stay alive in the game. But just the effort.”
Along with Fields and Davis, the Bears declared safety Eddie Jackson (foot), cornerback Terell Smith (mononucleosis) and running back Roschon Johnson (concussion) out of the game.
Wright, safety Jaquan Brisker (groin) and offensive lineman Dan Feeney (knee) are questionable to play. Brisker had groin pain, but Eberflus seemed confident he would play.
The Raiders are out with Garoppolo and cornerbacks Jakorian Bennett (shoulder/knee) and Nate Hobbs (ankle).
Brad Biggs (3-3)
It looked like local player Aidan O’Connell might replace local player Jimmy Garoppolo (back) for this game, but the Raiders are expected to turn to former Bears backup Brian Hoyer. The move is a little surprising – O’Connell played well in the preseason and earned a start in Week 4. That’s potentially bad news for Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, who has made it clear he wants the ball more. Hoyer doesn’t work downfield often, and O’Connell targeted Adams 13 times in his only appearance. The Bears turn to undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent, who has shown no reluctance to challenge all levels of the secondary. It remains to be seen how the Bears will protect him at the top if more injuries crop up on offense.
Raiders 20, Bears 17
Colleen Kane (3-3)
How do you pick a game between two backup quarterbacks – one a rookie who has never started a regular season game above the NCAA Division II level, and the other possibly a 38-year-old veteran who has made three starts since 2018 has? Potential for game-breaking bugs? Bears rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent had two turnovers in less than a half in his only season, filling in for Justin Fields on Sunday. Supporting cast? Whether the Raiders start veteran Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O’Connell, they have All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Josh Jacobs, although both have had seasons that didn’t live up to their standards. Defense? The Raiders have already shut down a few poor offenses and defensive end Maxx Crosby is lurking to hunt down Bagent against a constantly disorganized Bears offensive line. Because there is so much unknown about what Bagent will produce on Sunday, these factors lead me to favor a less-than-great Raiders team.
Raiders 23, Bears 21
Dan Wiederer (3-3)
Damn, I don’t know. Isn’t there a “confused and nervous” GIF we could just throw in here and move on? The Raiders have the best offensive player in the game (Davante Adams) and also the best defensive player (Maxx Crosby). But they’re decidedly ordinary overall, don’t do anything particularly well, and will likely turn to 38-year-old backup quarterback Brian Hoyer (or even Aidan O’Connell) to get them through Sunday. Meanwhile, the Bears are still in chaos and are on the verge of adding an undrafted rookie quarterback behind an as-yet-undetermined offensive line. Still, I get on my nerves. I expect Tyson Bagent to play turnover-free and for his defense to give him a touchdown.
Bears 23, Raiders 20