After struggling through a 3-14 season in 2023, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles set out to make everyone forget about it. He went out and signed veteran free agents and used his ten draft picks to find future stars to help improve the team.
One of Poles’ priorities was surrounding quarterback Justin Fields. Once Poles was convinced that Fields was the franchise quarterback who could lead the team back to relevance, he got him the tools to succeed.
One of the criticisms of Fields was his throwing. At first glance, that criticism could be viewed as valid. Fields has only completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 4,112 yards. He has 24 touchdown passes to 21 interceptions.
Looking deeper, however, you see why he has those numbers. His protection has been horrible. He’s been sacked 91 times in 27 games. Part of that is because he held onto the ball too long. There was a reason for that, though. He hasn’t had very much talent to throw to.
Fields’ favorite receiver was Darnell Mooney. The two gained chemistry in Fields’ rookie season when former head coach Matt Nagy refused to have him work with the starters. While Mooney is a good receiver, he isn’t a WR1. Additionally, he was injured last season and had his year cut short.
Fields did not get much help from the rest of the wide receivers group. Despite missing the final five games (and most of a sixth), Mooney still led all Chicago Bears receivers in catches and yards. In fact, his catch total was almost double of the next receiver, Equanemious St. Brown (40 to 21). Additionally, his 493 receiving yards were 170 more than the next receiver, also St. Brown.
Poles wanted to make sure Fields had the wide receivers to help the Chicago Bears offense to click.
Poles wanted to change that. He traded the number one pick in the draft. In exchange, he received a boatload of pics for this year and the next two drafts. That was still not enough, though. He looked at the wide receiver free agency market and felt there wasn’t anyone there who could make an impact on this team. He decided to use the huge salary cap space (almost $100 million) he had. He insisted on having D.J. Moore included. While the Carolina Panthers did not want to do that, they really coveted the top pick and finally relented.
Now the Chicago Bears and Fields have a true WR1 on the roster. Moore not only helps the young receivers improve their skills but also helps develop Fields. He now gives Fields a top-end receiver who can catch nearly any throw that goes his way. Moore runs great routes and has incredible hands and body control. Fields can feel confident that he can throw the ball up and more often than not Moore will come down with the catch. He also has the speed to extend the defense.
That was a priority for Poles and the Bears. They wanted a lot of speed to put pressure on the opposing defense. The roster now had Moore, Mooney, and Velus Jones with exceptional speed.
Let’s not forget Chase Claypool as well. He had two 800+ receiving yard seasons in his first two years before he struggled last season. Part of that struggle was having to learn a new offensive system when the Pittsburgh Steelers traded him to Chicago at the trade deadline.
Now Claypool had an entire offseason to learn the system. Also, he spent some time with Fields and other teammates training in Florida.
Poles wanted more, though. He drafted the University of Cincinnati’s speedy wideout Tyler Scott. Scott is a big play waiting to happen. In college, he averaged 44.6 yards per touchdown catch.
To help the wide receivers, Poles also signed tight end Robert Tonyan and re-signed Cole Kmet.
Now the Chicago Bears offense has options. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has more flexibility. That was something he didn’t have last season. Without talented receivers and a porous offensive line, he had to cut down the playbook. As a result, we saw a lot more runs called for Fields. He finished the season with 1,143 rushing yards, the second-most by a quarterback in a season. However, that did not help his throwing.
Fields has a plethora of targets to look for. Additionally, the offensive line is improved. Now he will have the time to find his talented receivers.
With more talented receivers, Getsy can move them around. During the first week of training camp, he had Claypool line up in the backfield a few times. Furthermore, he had both Kmet and Tonyan line up on the outside. They also ran the jet sweep, something they tried a few times last season.
Second-year cornerback Kyler Gordon noticed the difference in the receiver corps.
"They’re versatile. It just allows the offense to do more and create those matchups and mismatches that they really want. You got a bunch of guys who can do a lot of different things. You got Chase’s height, his catch radius, his speed, he can go outside or inside. Same with EQ or a bunch of the guys."
The Chicago Bears are now able to create mismatches all over the field. This makes the offense a dangerous one. This is a passing league and it seems that Chicago’s offense has finally made it to the Modern Age of the NFL.