Hey everybody! Welcome to another edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race In The Perspective Of Chase’, a close to daily NFL article previewing your favorite teams season! The Chicago Bears are one of the most interesting teams to follow this upcoming season. Because while they finished with the worst record in football last season, with an incredible season from Justin Fields, most knew this team is going to be in contention to be a competitive team the next season. So now the Bears, who won three games in 2022, are now in serious discussions to be a playoff team, and Justin Fields currently has more bets placed on him to win MVP than the reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes! However, is this too much hype? Is it fair to put these kind of expectations on a team that won three games last season? Here is everything you need to know about the Chicago Bears going into the 2023 season!
It has to be answered: Will Justin Fields live up to the hype?
Last season went as planned for the Chicago Bears. And they had the worst record in the NFL. That was expected. The team just wasn’t that good, especially once they traded Roquan Smith to the Ravens and Robert Quinn to the Eagles at the trade deadline. So despite a 2-1 start–which included a win against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers–the Bears lost 13 of their last 14 games, but with very promising signs. Mostly from the quarterback position.
The only promising sign of last season for Chicago was Justin Fields, who really showed he and Lawerence will be the quarterbacks that will be relevant out of the 2021 draft class. Fields rushed for 1,143 yards, which ranked 7th in the entire NFL–ahead of names like Christian McCaffrey, Travis Etienne and Aaron Jones–and 2nd amongst quarterbacks all time, only behind Lamar Jackson’s record breaking 2019 campaign.
Fields, who ranked 86th on NFL+’s annual NFL Top 100 List (voted by the players), threw for over 2200 yards and 17 touchdowns, while improving his yards per attempt, passer rating, QBR, and ranked 9th in MVP voting. While Fields has quite a long way to go to improve when it comes to his passing ability, his rushing ability and slight improvement in passing has made Fields one of the hottest bets for NFL MVP this season. But is that too much hype for Fields?
I think it is. The guy is still very unproven. He still hasn’t thrown for a substantial amount of yards yet, with a non-developed deep ball, and the injury bug other rushing quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Jackson have faced has not hit him yet. I’m not saying Fields can’t improve. He shows many similarities to a 2018 Lamar Jackson, a quarterback who was leading their team with soley their rushing ability. For Jackson, he got some new receivers, some more weapons, and broke out into having one of the greatest individual seasons in NFL history. Now, projecting a really good season like that to happen to Fields (maybe not the same magnitude but still an MVP caliber season) could be a little generous, but also could be pretty fair.
But one thing is for sure: Fields finally has some talent on the offensive end. I really like what Chicago did this offseason on both sides the ball. Offensively, they traded a number one overall pick that was not needed do to Fields’ success, so they traded it to Carolina and got Fields and legitimate weapon in D.J. Moore. Moore, who is surprisingly only 26 years old, has received 1,000+ yards in three of his last four seasons, the only year being last year where he still caught 888 yards off receptions, despite having the incredible trio of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker at quarterback. Moore has been able to have a large amount of success with average quarterback play at best, and should at least be able to have a nice season even if Fields doesn’t progress through the air the way most are expecting. I really like Moore being this team’s number one receiver.
Darnell Mooney as their number two receiver is also amazing. Mooney is someone who has shown superstar potential at receiver for a while now, but hasn’t quite gotten enough targets to be able to develop into that kind of receiver. Last year, Mooney only played 12 games, and was receiving significantly less targets than in 2021. Because 2021 was an incredible year for Mooney, where he was targeted 140 times, and had over 1,000 yards with 13.0 yards per reception. As long as he can get the looks and opportunities, Mooney shouldn’t disappoint, especially as the number two option.
And I REALLY like Chase Claypool as their third option. For a guy who had such a good rookie season like he had, we haven’t seen the progression we were probably hoping to see from him. But Claypool can still be a really decent option. Last season was a little bit of disappointment, in Pittsburgh and in Chicago after the trade deadline. But like Mooney, the majority of that was due to lack of targets. For Claypool, someone who isn’t an amazing catcher, but is incredibly fast and is an incredible route runner, him as the third option for a progressing quarterback is P-E-R-F-E-C-T!
And something else I REALLY liked was Chicago deciding to let go of David Montgomery. Look, Montgomery had a really good season in 2020, but has never been the same and probably won’t be again. I am happy with Chicago’s confidence in Khalil Herbert, who had an 177 yard game last season and totaled 731 yards (only 70 less than Montgomery) due to his partial time as the RB1. I expect at LEAST a 1,000 yard rushing season from Khalil Herbert, as long as he gets the proper amount of touches!
I also really like Chicago picking up Robert Tonyan to make a 1A-1B Tight End pairing with him and Cole Kmet. The offensive line also improved significantly. Fields was sacked more than any quarterback in football last season, and to improve this, they drafted Darnell Wright 10th overall, and signed a pretty good offensive lineman Nate Davis from the Titans. Not to mention a breakout season from Braxton Jones is definitely in the cards. The O-Line still isn’t great and has some question marks, but it’s significantly improved.
Defensively, the Bears also improved. To replace Roquan Smith at linebacker, the Bears decided to make two productive signings, Eagles linebacker TJ Edwards and 2x Pro Bowler Tremaine Edmunds. Edwards had nearly 100 tackles last season and was the key to Philadelphia’s linebacker core, while Edmunds, who yes hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2020, has played at basically a Pro Bowl level and has been a key part of Buffalo’s highly ranked front seven over the past few seasons.
They also improved the front-seven even more, by improving the defensive line. Chicago signed Yannick Ngakoue AND DeMarcus Walker this offseason. It has been a rocky road over the past few seasons for Ngakoue, who’s about to be playing for his sixth team in five seasons. But one thing is for sure: the guy is consistent. Ngakoue has never finished a season with less than eight sacks, and he’s coming off of a campaign with Indianapolis where he had 9.5 sacks and 16 QB hits, and a 2021 campaign with the Raiders he had 10 sacks and 23 QB hits. Ngakoue should be an incredible pass rusher for Chicago.
For Walker, he has spent years in the NFL as an average defensive lineman finally looking to become a great player. He was close to that last season finally with Tennessee. Walker totaled a career high SEVEN sacks, where he also hit the quarterback SIXTEEN times and had 10 tackles for loss. He also a totaled a career high in tackles with 32. A puss rush with Ngakoue and Walker on opposite ends should scare the rest of the NFC!
We also can’t forget about the secondary. While a lot of Chicago’s depth in the secondary is unproven, they still do have Eddie Jackson, who despite no longer being the All-Pro he was, is still a very good corner. He totaled the second most interceptions in a season in his career with four, forced the second most fumbles in a season in his career with two, and had the second most tackles he’s ever had in a season with 80. Chicago’s DB’s definitely aren’t amazing, but they are something to keep a look at!
So we essentially just examined the ENTIRE roster for good reason. Chicago didn’t make many improvements this offseason. Chicago instead went for quality over quantity, with almost every move they made being one that should really help the tam this upcoming season. A lot of this team does lay in Justin Fields shoulders. His development as a passer and overall game manager is what will determine this team’s success. If Fields really does develop into a great passer with these kinds of weapons, Chicago could be a legitimate NFC North contender. If Fields really doesn’t get much better, and it just a mirror image of his 2022 self, I don’t see Chicago, who has so many question marks on their offensive line, really improving the way some may be anticipating.
Overall, this team is pretty good. They are probably the most improved NFL team of the entire offseason. And I do think they will be able to take advantage of divisional games against highly questioned teams like Green Bay and Minnesota, and probably split with the division favorite Lions. Overall, they have the sixth easiest schedule in football this upcoming year according to Sharp Football Analysis. The defense should be alright. It’s going to come down to Fields’ willingness to pass the football and the improvement he has in that area that will determine the success this team has!
Prediction: Chicago has a record above .500, which may allow them to squeak into one of the NFC’s three Wild Card spots!
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Twitter: Chase Coburn (@coolsportskid)
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