The Bears exited the 2022 season with a 3-14 record and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Such is the reward for taking your licks during a teardown season.
Of course, the 2022 campaign wasn't a total loss. Quarterback Justin Fields survived and thrived despite a leaky offensive line and minimal weapons. Fields' playmaking with his legs was a sight to behold, but the young quarterback has to take several steps forward as a passer in 2023 to cement himself as a franchise signal-caller.
The Bears made a flurry of moves this offseason. Poles traded the No. 1 pick to the Carolina Panthers for wide receiver DJ Moore and a haul of draft picks. In free agency, the general manager spent big on linebacker Tremaine Edmunds while bringing in several competent veterans led by linebacker T.J. Edwards, guard Nate Davis, running back D'Onta Foreman, and tight end Robert Tonyan.
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Poles added talent on both sides of the ball during the 2023 NFL Draft. The Bears selected Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright with the No. 10 overall pick to headline their 10-pick class.
With the 2023 Bears finally set to take the field for the first time Saturday in their preseason opener vs. the Tennessee Titans, here's everything you need to know about the moves made, where the team stands with one month to go until Week 1, and the expectations for the 2023 Bears.
Justin Fields' growth
The Bears liked what they saw from Fields in 2022. At least they liked it enough not to draft another quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. There's great belief in Fields inside Halas Hall. But the third-year quarterback has to take at least a few steps forward as a passer in 2023 to solidify himself as the long-term answer.
If he does that, a massive contract extension will also be coming his way. But that's not important to Fields.
"I'm not worried about contracts, I'm worried about wins. I could care less," Fields said after the Bears' second OTA practice at Halas Hall.
The Bears believe they have a franchise quarterback in Fields. Not the Daniel Jones-type, but the Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow-type. The type of quarterback whose talent helps bring other players to Chicago.
"Justin Fields is definitely, you know, someone that I can't wait to go to battle with," new Bears defensive end DeMarcus Walker said after signing in March.
"Scary" DJ Moore connection
Bringing in an elite wide receiver was No. 1A or 1B for Poles this offseason. Just as Stefon Diggs and A.J. Brown helped Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts rise, the Bears believe Moore will elevate Fields to the place his talent suggests.
The Bears' new receiver and young quarterback already have a strong connection that has been the talk of the NFL during training camp.
"For Justin, for DJ, and for that offense. Sky is the limit. You're going to see," safety Jaquan Brisker said.
The 2022 Bears had a few good NFL players. Players who live in the B realm. They had zero multipliers. With Moore and Edmunds in the fold, the Bears have elite difference-makers on both sides of the ball. The difference was evident early.
"So I'm just excited about what's to come, just by going through it every day, obviously, it's just a stepping stool. Rome wasn't built in a day," Edmunds said.
Big year for Chase Claypool
When the Bears traded for Claypool last November, they had the 2023 season in mind. Claypool will be a free agent after the season, and he knows the Bears are his best chance for a big payday. The fourth-year receiver spent time learning the playbook in the offseason and has shown improved chemistry with Fields during camp. However, he is unlikely to play Saturday after hurting his hamstring Wednesday.
"Chase has been doing his thing lately," Fields said after the first week of camp.
Get to know the rookies
The 2023 Bears draft class should be a foundational piece of Poles' rebuild plan.
Here's a little about some of the key members of the class.
Darnell Wright, OT
"He's a tone-setter,” Poles said of Wright. “He plays with an edge to him, which we love. We want more of. He’s a nasty dude who when you watch the tape and are like, alright, we’ve got to play the Bears next week, you go – OK, this is going to be a long day.”
Gervon Dexter, DT
The Bears used their first of two second-round picks on Gervon Dexter. Dexter is a massive defensive tackle with elite strength and burst. The Bears are working to rebuild Dexter's stance, but he has made quick progress during camp.
"While you're asleep, I'm doing the dirty, hard work in the dark," Dexter told NBC Sports Chicago.
Tyler Scott, WR
The Bears added to their arsenal in the fourth round when they drafted speedy wide receiver Tyler Scott out of Cincinnati. Scott ran a 4.21 at the combine, but he's more than speed.
"I just see myself being an impact and having a hand in the stirring the pot of a team that's gonna compete in the playoffs and ultimately for a Super Bowl," Scott told NBC Sports Chicago.
Roschon Johnson, RB
A big, physical runner, the Bears drafted Johnson in the fourth round. Everyone has raved about Johnson's character, work ethic, and bruising running style. He enters camp as the third-string running back but hopes to push Khalil Herbert and Foreman.
“He’s someone we really feel compelled can become a pillar of this organization for a really long time," area scout John Syty said when the Bears drafted Johnson.
The Bears struggled to pressure the quarterback last season. The addition of Walker will help, but Poles still needed to add a reliable edge rusher to give his defense some teeth. That help came in the form of veteran defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who the Bears signed to a one-year contract during the first week of camp.
It's just getting scarier and scarier," safety Eddie Jackson said of the Bears' defense after signing Ngakoue.