The Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders will meet Sunday at Soldier Field without their starting quarterbacks.
Justin Fields is out with a right thumb injury for the Bears, and the Raiders’ Jimmy Garoppolo will miss the game with a back injury. So it will be a battle of backups as the Bears (1-5) look to win their second game of the season behind rookie Tyson Bagent, and the Raiders (3-3) try to build a winning streak behind Brian Hoyer or Aidan O’Connell.
As kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot look at the game.
Player in the spotlight
The undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd will make his first career start as Fields recovers from a dislocated thumb suffered Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Bagent was asked to step up in the second half of that game and completed 10 of 14 passes for 83 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble in the 19-13 Vikings win.
Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney on Friday said he thinks Bagent is “up to speed” after a full week of practice as the starter.
“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’s different him getting all of the reps from him not getting any reps. So he’s definitely more confident, definitely more at ease with the game plan.”
Whether this will be Bagent’s only opportunity to start remains up in the air.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus said Fields right now is not on a path to needing surgery or going on injured reserve, and he offered a positive update about his recovery.
“The mobility’s getting better, the swelling went down, the grip strength is better,” Eberflus said. “It’s trending in the right direction. He’ll be week to week, and we’ll know more Monday.”
Will Davante Adams’ frustrations carry over against 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 in that time. But this will be their first time facing him since the Packers traded him to the Raiders in 2022.
Adams has had an up-and-down season with Garoppolo. He caught 13 passes for 172 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 24 but then had a season-low two catches for 29 yards against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Adams, who has been 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 in the week they’re set to defend him. Hoke opened his compliments of Adams by calling him “extremely competitive” but that was just the start.
“He understands what the defense is trying to do,” Hoke said. “He’s very smart that way. He’s a challenge because of his physical skills, his competitiveness and then his ability to change pace in routes.”
The Bears lucked out in not having to face Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson last week when the defense turned in one of its best performances, though Bears defenders said they would have liked to have faced him.
“We love playing with top-flight receivers,” safety Jaquan Brisker said. “We would have loved to have Jefferson out there last week, but he just didn’t play. So this week, we have a great challenge in Davante Adams coming to us. We love the challenge. We’re going to accept the challenge, and we’ll be ready for 17 this week.”
Keep an eye on …
Brian Hoyer (or Aidan O’Connell)
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels wouldn’t tell reporters before practice Friday whether he planned to start the veteran Hoyer or the rookie O’Connell on Sunday, though the Tribune’s Brad Biggs expects Hoyer to get the start.
Hoyer, 38, has started 40 games and played in 78 with eight teams since 2009, including making five starts with the Bears in 2016. But he has started only three games since 2018.
That 2016 Bears season was the last time he won a game he started. But he helped the Raiders complete a victory against the Patriots last week when Garoppolo was injured.
“Hoyer’s had a lot of ball,” Eberflus said. “He’s seen a lot of coverages. He’s seen everything. And so he’s been in a lot of meetings with Josh, so they have a familiarity there. He has a good feeling for that offense. It was a comfort level there. He’s got 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.
In a 24-17 Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the 2023 fourth-round pick made his first start. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 238 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, was sacked seven times and lost two of his three fumbles.
Guard Teven Jenkins said this week has required “an abundance of communication” as the Bears deal with even more injuries on the offensive line.
They already are missing left tackle Braxton Jones, who is on injured reserve with a neck injury. Right guard Nate Davis will be out with an ankle injury, and right tackle Darnell Wright has been dealing with a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, though Eberflus said he should be good to play Sunday.
The Bears have had five starting offensive line combinations in six games this season and are nearing their sixth Sunday. Jenkins said there have been a lot of conversations about what each player wants and expects.
“It’s just understanding we’ve got to do different combo blocks with different people and understanding what certain guys need from other guys, fits wise, pass pro wise,” he said. “It’s being able to go out there together as a unit to make sure we have the same confidence and same 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 the thing that jumps off. Of course he’s a great athlete and he’s got great flexibility, can stay alive in the play. 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 for the game.
Wright, safety Jaquan Brisker (groin) and offensive lineman Dan Feeney (knee) are questionable to play. Brisker had groin tightness, but Eberflus sounded hopeful he would play.
For the Raiders, Garoppolo and cornerbacks Jakorian Bennett (shoulder/knee) and Nate Hobbs (ankle) are out.
Brad Biggs (3-3)
It looked as if local product Aidan O’Connell could replace local product 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 preseason and had one start in Week 4. It’s potentially bad news for Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, who has made it known he wants the ball more. Hoyer doesn’t work downfield a lot, and O’Connell targeted Adams 13 times in his lone appearance. The Bears turn to undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent, who has shown no aversion to challenging all levels of the secondary. It remains to be seen how the Bears will protect him up front with more injuries rolling through the offensive line.
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 potentially a 38-year-old veteran who has made three starts since 2018? Potential to make game-changing mistakes? Bears rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent had two turnovers in less than one half in his only playing time 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, though both are having seasons that are not up to their standards. Defense? The Raiders have shut down a few bad offenses already and have defensive end Maxx Crosby lurking to get after Bagent against a constantly jumbled Bears offensive line. Since there’s so much unknown about what Bagent will produce Sunday, those factors push me to give the edge to a not-great Raiders team.
Raiders 23, Bears 21
Dan Wiederer (3-3)
Heck, I don’t know. Isn’t there a “bewildered and flustered” GIF we could just drop in here and move on? The Raiders have the best offensive player in the game (Davante Adams) and the best defensive player (Maxx Crosby) also. But they are decidedly ordinary overall, don’t do anything particularly well and are likely turning to 38-year-old backup quarterback Brian Hoyer (or even Aidan O’Connell) to get them through Sunday. The Bears, meanwhile, are still a mess and about to start an undrafted rookie quarterback behind a still unsettled offensive line. Still, I’m going out on a limb. I’m predicting Tyson Bagent plays turnover-free and that his defense gets him a touchdown.
Bears 23, Raiders 20