Preseason Week 2 Thursday Winners and Losers: Justin Fields excels on one drive while Geno Smith fails to grab Seahawks’ starting QB job

Preseason Week 2 featured solid performances from Bears QB Justin Fields and WR Velus Jones Jr., while Seahawks QB Geno Smith struggled to get anything going.

The Chicago Bears traveled to face the Seattle Seahawks on the Thursday night iteration of preseason Week 2 football. Preseason scores don’t mean much, but the Bears defeated the Seahawks, 27-11. Who were the winners and losers from tonight’s action?

Preseason Week 2 winners and losers, Thursday edition

We have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves in the preseason. If we’re drastically altering our views on teams or players based on the exhibition season, there’s a problem. Still, both the Bears and the Seahawks got the opportunity to evaluate their players in live competition — and that’s always important.

Winner: Bears QB Justin Fields

Justin Fields only played the opening series, but he led the Bears to a field goal on that drive. More importantly, the 2021 first-round pick consistently used his mobility to his benefit, escaping the ceaseless pressure given up by Chicago’s sub-par offensive line.

Fields’ best play came when he rolled left after a play-action fake, flipped his hips, squared his shoulders, and hit a 17-yard throw to tight end Cole Kmet. Credit to new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy for moving Fields out of the pocket and giving him an open throwing lane. That’s the type of play-calling that can get the most out of Fields’ strengths even if Chicago’s OL can’t hold up against the pass rush.

Loser: Seahawks QB Geno Smith

Geno Smith should have been a de facto winner. His only competition for Seattle’s starting quarterback job, Drew Lock, wasn’t able to suit up after contracting COVID earlier this week. Set to play an entire half against an uninspiring Bears defense, Smith had an opportunity to seize the Seahawks’ QB job.

While Smith wasn’t awful by any means, he didn’t end the quarterback competition. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 112 yards, and while he was plagued by penalties and drops, Smith also had some misfires. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett barely played, but Smith and Seattle’s starting offensive line failed to score any points against a Bears defense that was largely playing backups by the second series.

Smith emerged from the locker room after halftime with a bag of ice around his right knee, but the ice was gone by the end of the game, and he wasn’t walking with a limp, per Brady Henderson of ESPN. For now, Seattle’s QB battle looks like it will come down to their third and final preseason game.

Winner: Bears WR Velus Jones Jr.

Somebody has to play wide receiver for the Bears, right? With Byron Pringle and N’Keal Harry dealing with injuries, third-round rookie and AARP member Velus Jones Jr. is positioned to start opposite Darnell Mooney.

Jones didn’t do a ton on offense on Thursday night, but he did gain four yards on a short pass play that looked to be going nowhere. His most significant impact came on special teams, where he showed excellent burst on a 48-yard punt return. Even if Jones doesn’t end up factoring into Chicago’s offensive plans, he should make plays on special teams, just as he did at USC and Tennessee.

Loser: Seahawks G Damien Lewis

Everyone hates to see injuries, especially in the preseason. Left guard Damien Lewis suffered what looked to be a serious ankle injury in the second quarter, and he was eventually carted off the field with an air cast. Lewis, a third-round pick in 2020, started 29 games for the Seahawks over the past two years.

If Lewis is out for an extended period of time, Phil Haynes — a former fourth-rounder who’s played 127 snaps through three seasons — will take over in the starting lineup. Haynes recently received praise from Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and had been pushing right guard Gabe Jackson for a starting spot. Assuming Lewis is sidelined, Haynes will find himself lining up on the other side of the interior.

Winner: Seattle’s young offensive tackles

Let’s get the negative out of the way: Charles Cross had some growing pains. The No. 9 overall pick got called for two false starts and one holding penalty. Still, Cross flashed his potential as a pass blocker with several good reps against veteran edge rusher Robert Quinn, and he was violent in the run game.

Fellow rookie Abraham Lucas came in to handle right tackle on the third series of the game, and if he keeps playing the same way he did tonight, Lucas should have no problem beating out Jake Curhan for Seattle’s starting RT job. A true mover of men in the rushing attack, Lucas — the 72nd overall pick in the 2022 draft — had a nice block on Travis Homer’s 33-yard scamper in the second quarter.

Lucas later got beaten for a sack, but the Seahawks have to be pleased with the progression of their rookie tackles. If Seattle landed two stalwarts who can play for the next decade, they won’t care about any difficulties Cross and Lucas encounter as they develop in 2022.

Loser: Seahawks’ attention to detail

The Seahawks probably won’t be good this season, but that shouldn’t stop them from paying attention to the little things. On Thursday, Seattle’s lack of discipline was on display.

The Seahawks committed 13 penalties for 92 yards, seemingly stopping any sort of progress they made on offense. Their receivers dropped multiple passes. They went 4-of-19 on third down.

Veteran cornerback Justin Coleman, who’s played more than 800 career snaps on special teams, tried to down a punt with his heels on the goal line, resulting in a touchback. And Cade Johnson muffed a punt that was recovered for a Bears touchdown.

Winner: Bears TE Cole Kmet

Cole Kmet was the Bears’ second-leading receiver in 2021, and he figures to repeat as a focal point of Chicago’s offense in his third NFL campaign. While Fields only attempted seven passes, Kmet received three targets, catching two for 31 yards. After posting 60 receptions for 612 yards last season, Kmet will look to improve on those numbers this season while hopefully scoring at least one touchdown, something he failed to do in 2022.

Loser: Bears coaching staff’s aggressiveness

Yes, this is just a preseason game, but we’re trying to glean something about first-year head coach Matt Eberflus. The Bears dominated tonight’s game, so it’s hard to criticize too much, but Chicago’s coaching staff could have been more aggressive on a number of occasions.

In the second quarter, Eberflus failed to challenge what clearly looked like a first-down catch by Isaiah Coulter. Isn’t the preseason the best time to work out any kinks in your team’s instant replay/challenge system, especially if you’re a first-year staff? Instead, Chicago took a delay of game penalty and then punted.

Later in the half, the Bears ran on 3rd-and-6, gained five yards, but then decided to punt from midfield. Running the ball on 3rd-and-6 is an acceptable strategy, but only if you plan to go for it on fourth down. Maybe Eberflus wanted the extra punt team reps, but offensive reps — and playing in an analytically-friendly fashion — are more important.

Winner: Bears G Teven Jenkins

Eberflus announced earlier this week that Teven Jenkins, Chicago’s second-round pick in 2021 who’s since been the subject of trade rumors, would shift from tackle to guard. Jenkins gave up at least one pressure on Fields early on, but he settled down as he stayed in the lineup for several series. The Oklahoma State product looked relatively powerful as a run blocker, and there’s little question he should start at right guard over journeyman Michael Schofield.

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