CHICAGO -- A false start during the first team period of Sunday's training camp practice at Soldier Field put the Bears' offense behind the eight-ball, needing to convert third-and-8 to win the drill against the second-team defense.
Last season, quarterback Justin Fields using his legs was the best chance the Bears had at converting a third-and-long. Things are different with DJ Moore in town, though.
Moore lined up left and recognized zone coverage. He ran a quick in-breaking route and sat in a hole. Fields quickly got the ball into Moore's hands, and the receiver made one defender miss and turned it upfield for a gain of 10 and a first down.
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Sunday's "Family Fest" practice at Soldier Field offered a glimpse at the Bears' new offensive reality -- one with a legitimate No. 1 receiver who makes everything easier.
Later in the day, Moore got a step on safety A.J. Thomas on a deep crossing route, and Fields hit him in stride for a 19-yard touchdown.
Then came the cherry on top of the Bears' best offensive day of camp.
During a red-zone drill against the first-team defense, Moore ran a route along the backline of the end zone. He got the defender to overplay the route, quickly stuck his foot in the ground, and gave Fields an open target. The quarterback put the ball on Moore's back shoulder, and the receiver secured the ball and kept two feet inbounds while falling.
Red-zone threat? Check. Make a play on third-and-long? Check. Explosive plays? Check.
"He's just quicker than I thought he was," head coach Matt Eberflus said of Moore on Sunday. "He really captures space well and separation. Those are the things that I see out there. There was that first third down — we got a penalty and backed it up, it was third-and-8 and that was a conversion because he was able to twirl around there, split two and get vertical and he made it by a couple yards. That elusiveness that he has. And then that catch at the end, the ability to stop, put his right foot in the ground, come back falling down and make the play, that's concentration and quickness and the ability that he has."
There's a reason the Bears coveted Moore. He's a proven top-tier receiver with room to grow at 26. Getting Fields a true No. 1 target he can rely on to get open, especially in "got-to-have-it moments," should also help the young quarterback make quicker decisions.
Moore and Fields developed a quick connection this offseason. That's a product of off-campus work and time on turf at OTAs and minicamp. The chemistry developed quicker than expected, leading to a trust factor that will be vital to the Bears' hopes in 2023.
“I just think that the trust is growing," Eberflus said of the Moore-Fields connection. "It’s more about trust I think. When you can trust a guy and the receiving corps, the tight ends that we have and the receivers that we have and the ones that he’s working with primarily on a day-to-day basis, those guys that are running with the ones, there’s a trust factor there, and I can see that growing and growing and growing. Guys are where they’re supposed to be. He knows that. He knows the rhythm and timing of that. And then the adjustments off that. If you’re playing man to man, if a guy’s going to stop and work away for example, he knows that and he knows to put it six inches in front of the guy. There’s a lot of detail to that and those guys are starting to trust each other.”
The excitement level for the Moore-Fields connection started the second general manager Ryan Poles acquired the receiver in early March. It has grown steadily over the past five months, and on Sunday, Moore and Fields put that connection on display for the faithful at Soldier Field.
Just call him crowd pleaser.
"At the end of the day, that’s what I’m going to do. I bring excitement to the team," Moore said after practice Sunday about the fan buzz around his arrival. "I guess it’s on a bigger platform now, so I guess everybody is excited and I’m going to just keep running with it."
Last season, the Bears' offense had few answers outside of Fields' remarkable playmaking with his legs. Now, they have a "break glass in case of emergency" receiver capable of wiping away offensive sins and resuscitating drives that are on life support.
Life will be different with DJ Moore in the fold, and two plays Sunday offered a window into the Bears' new offensive reality.