Bears Insider

Bears overreactions: Time to second-guess Ryan Poles' offseason moves already?

The Bears are 0-0 , but is it already time to question the moves general manager Ryan Poles made this offseason? Bears Insider Josh Schrock opens up the mailbag ahead of Week 1

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After months of talking about potential leaps, dissecting schedules, and breaking down offseason winners and losers, Week 1 of the NFL season arrived Thursday night when the Detroit Lions knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs 21-20 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Bears will kick off their 2023 season Sunday when they welcome Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers to Soldier Field for "America's Game of the Week." Bears-Packers hasn't felt like a real rivalry in quite some time. Both teams have to hang their fair share of pelts for it to truly be a rivalry.

The Bears are 3-17 in their last 20 games against the Packers. But that was when Aaron Rodgers roamed the frozen tundra. With the Love era officially beginning, there is belief that the NFC North is wide-open in 2023.

General manager Ryan Poles' rebuild exited the demolition stage this offseason. Poles added talent at wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, and revamped the offensive line, but were the moves he made the right ones? Or did he whiff?

That's where we start this Week 1 mailbag. It's good to be back:

Overreaction? Yes and no

Let's start with giving Poles credit for adding an elite wide receiver in DJ Moore. I don't think it can be overstated how much his presence will elevate a passing game that was historically poor in 2022. He's a game-breaker who gives the Bears a get-out-of-jail card they didn't have last season. Facing a third-and-8? Just throw it to No. 2 and there's a good chance he'll make a guy miss and pick up the first.

Poles should also be lauded for waiting out the edge rusher market and getting Ngakoue at a good number for one season. It's a free roll on a productive, motivated edge rusher in his prime. Poles could have tried to do more to address the pass rush, but Ngakoue has been a guaranteed eight sacks in every season of his career. Jaquan Brisker led the Bears with four last season.

Credit where credit is due.

Now to the second guessing.

I'm on the record as saying that I would have paid Orlando Brown Jr. despite him not being a perfect scheme fit. Braxton Jones improved during his rookie season but Brown is another class. If the Bears really wanted to give quarterback Justin Fields top-tier protection, Brown was available for a reasonable number.

I also liked the idea of the Bears drafting center John Michael Schmitz and I know he was high on the Bears' board, but he wasn't as high as defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. or cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, both of whom the Bears drafted ahead of Schmitz at No. 57.

The Bears need a long-term answer at center. It's true you can't fix everything in one offseason, but the Bears might have been better served signing Brown and drafting Darnell Wright and Schmitz to solidify their line long term.

Jalen Carter wasn't going to be a Bear. He was the most talented player in the class, but the Bears weren't in the position to take the risk on him. He will probably be good on the Eagles. It's a better situation. Doesn't mean he would have been good in Chicago.

The Bears weren't going to pay DeAndre Hopkins up to $32 million over two seasons. They don't feel they are a veteran receiver away from true contention, and their hope is that Chase Claypool gives them the same or more than a 31-year old Hopkins.

Some of Poles' decisions certainly deserve early scrutiny, especially the offensive line decisions. But we should reserve judgement until we see the product on the field.

Overreaction? No

This dovetails nicely with the above criticisms.

The Bears couldn't fix everything in one offseason. Their approach was to add the best players who fit their scheme and culture, regardless of position. That's why Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, and Nate Davis were at the top of their free-agent wish list.

As stated above, my preference would have been to fully solidify the offensive line with Brown, Wright, and Schmitz.

The offensive line is improved on paper, but Teven Jenkins is already injured and Davis has been in and out of practice all camp. The Bears have little depth on the offensive line and are putting a lot of their eggs into Jones improving and Wright being good out of the gate.

The additions of Ngakoue and DeMarcus Walker should give the pass rush more juice than it had last season (zero), but I still have questions about the run defense and interior rush.

The back seven could be really good, but if quarterbacks can sit back their in a lawnchair with a Mai Thai then it won't matter.

Overreaction? Yes

I think Fields will take a couple steps forward as a passer this season. He has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback, and the Bears have put enough around him that it's fair to expect marked improvement in the passing game.

But going from 2,242 yards to 3,800 would be a massive leap. Keep in mind, Jalen Hurts' big leap was to go from 3,144 yards to 3,701 yards. The Bears also will remain a run first team. They averaged 22 attempts per game last season. That number should go up to around 28, but the Bears won't be throwing it 40 times per game. In fact, the 2022 Bears attempted the third fewest number of passes by any team since 1980, and they did that despite trailing in almost every game.

As for the rushing yards, I think the Bears will try to tailor back the QB run game a bit. But it's such a huge weapon that they can't pocket it as much as some might like. I think Fields will probably be around 800 for the season.

Let's call it 3,000-800. That's a fair expectation.

No overreaction here, but an interested question.

I really think people will be surprised by how good of a player T.J. Edwards is at WILL linebacker.

Safety Jaquan Brisker was probably the best player early in camp, but Edwards was tremendous throughout camp. He made several impressive plays in coverage and is a bullet coming downhill in the run game. Fans will love watching Edwards play this season.

As for the offensive side of the ball, as long Chase Claypool is healthy, I think he will have a strong season for the Bears. He gives the passing game a different element opposite Moore and Darnell Mooney. When healthy in camp, Claypool showcased his physicality and contested-catch ability. His chemistry with Fields has clearly improved, and I think he could have a much better season than people anticipate.

Overreaction? Yes

I have the Bears pegged for 7-10. If Fields takes a grand leap, 8 or 9 wins isn't impossible. However, if the offensive line gets banged up and the run defense isn't a lot better, 6-11 is certainly in the cards.

I don't think the Bears' own pick will be in the top four. But the Carolina Panthers might end up being horrible. Bryce Young is good, but they can't block and have the slowest group of skill players in the NFL. There's a world where they go 5-12 and finish last in the NFC South.

If Jordan Loves shreds the Bears on Sunday, the group can meet Monday morning at a to be decided location.

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