Heading into last season, Bears fans knew their beloved team was destined for an ugly season.
The roster wasn't the most talented in the NFL heading into the season. Come to the trade deadline, it was stripped to the studs, as the front office traded away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith to the Eagles and Ravens, respectively.
The result? The NFL's worst record (3-14) followed by the worst-ranked defense and 23rd-ranked offense. Yet, no one can say for sure they were surprised by the outcome.
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This offseason, however, provides a different feel. Are the Bears destined for a deep playoff run? Probably not. But they are due for improvement, and Bears fans should expect that, at the very least, this season.
Obviously, we can point to the offseason additions. DJ Moore, Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Nate Davis, Darnell Wright, etc. offer promising services on both sides of the ball.
The wounded warriors are healthy. Darnell Mooney, Eddie Jackson and Jack Sanborn have all recovered from the scary end-of-season injuries that never saw them return to the field in 2022.
Justin Fields had plenty of time to heal, too, from the beating he took last season. Over 1,000 yards rushing, 55 sacks and countless hits on the field will take a reasonable toll on the body.
On the subject of Chase Claypool, he feels comfortable and confident in the offense. He spent diligent time in the offseason learning the playbook, studying on his flashcards and bringing the offense to life with routes.
"I was able to get that full offseason in with Justin (Fields) and (Luke) Getsy," Claypool said on Wednesday. "Really understand the playbook, the different positions. That was really good. And developing my knowledge of the playbook, which makes things easier."
Velus Jones Jr. is growing more comfortable with his role, too. Eberflus said he's improving with punt and kick returns, understanding his expertise as a gadget player and growing accustomed as a wide receiver.
All of this is to say --- the Bears are in a better spot than last offseason. They have proven talent in the locker room, they're healthy and they're growing their comfort levels in their respective system and in the locker room.
They might not make the playoffs. Hell, they might not have a winning record. But, improvement from last season is inevitable. If it doesn't come, the Bears might have bigger problems on their hands.
And it started on Wednesday with their first day of training camp. The offense looked the sharpest it's been this offseason. Fields executed phenomenal passes to DJ Moore and Cole Kmet, who reached an extension on Wednesday, too.
"I don't want to put a ceiling on what we can be but our goal is always to win the division and be a championship-caliber team," Poles told the media on Tuesday. "That standard is always gonna be there. I think every year, regardless if you're a Super Bowl team, or wherever you're at, there are a lot of unknowns.
"That's what makes our job really hard is you constantly have to adapt and adjust and be on your toes to make adjustments to try to be the absolute best that you can possibly be."