Pundits and outsiders are trying to put together an equation for the Bears' 2023 season.
What defines success for the team? Justin Fields? How high is their ceiling?
One hypothesis some have drafted is a Jalen Hurts trajectory for Fields. The Eagles held Hurts' hand through his rookie season. In his sophomore season, the Eagles scraped to get over .500, but there was a tangible improvement. By his third season, he exploded, entering the MVP conversation and leading the team to an NFC championship.
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NFL Network's Ian Rapoport believes that equation is a lofty projection for Fields this season.
"I think that's hopeful in the eyes of Bears fans," Rapoport said on NBC Sports Chicago's Football Night In Chicago. "On the other hand, I would've said the same thing to the Eagles last year. I think the entire Eagles team was in a different place. Much older, much more mature.
"But I think if everything goes well with the Bears, that's the trajectory."
Rapoport pumped the breaks on Fields entering the MVP conversation this year, as Hurts did last season. Though, he visited Halas Hall and observed Fields at training camp, characterizing him as "quick, sharp, decisive."
Fields used his legs as a crutch last season (ignore that paradox). He rushed for 1,143 yards on his way to one of the most remarkable rushing seasons for a quarterback in NFL history. Though, his and the Bears' ability to move the ball through the air was absent. They were, undoubtedly, one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL.
The Bears represented the 23rd-ranked offense and the 32nd-ranked offense last season. Their 3-14 record marked the worst of any team in the league, earning them the No. 1 pick. They turned that pick into a haul, trading for future draft picks and wide receiver DJ Moore with the Carolina Panthers.
Their major roster moves shouldn't point fans to believe they could vie for a Super Bowl. Rapoport set a respectable bar for the Bears this season.
"Competitive, sure," Rapoport said when asked about the Bears' ceiling. "Remember, they had the No. 1 pick. They earned that and that is hard. That's a long way to go. If they are competitive, if they see improvement from Fields, if they can say 'This is our guy no matter what' we just need a couple more pieces, maybe another draft class to get to the playoffs, I think that's fine."
As Rapopot alluded, the Bears are pieces away from possessing a top-tier roster.
They have yet to address the edge rusher position. They've signed filler veterans and drafted intriguing players to the defensive line. But their defensive front isn't yet a reputable group.
Consider their offensive line, too. Yes, they signed Nate Davis, who started at right guard for the Titans, and drafted Darnell Wright, who's seemingly one of the most violent offensive linemen the Bears have seen in recent memory.
But, can Cody Whitehair effectively adjust to playing center? Can Teven Jenkins replicate the phenomenal season he performed last season? And Braxton Jones? Offensive linemen are an often injured group. The Bears' depth across the board is tragic.
The bottom line is this: the Bears improved their roster, yes. But Bears fans should taper their expectations from a playoff run, even a winning record. Though, if they get their ducks in a row, they could result in a young, fun team to watch -- much like the Jacksonville Jaguars were last season, as Rapoport mentioned on the show.
"It's all out there for them, right?" Rapoport said. "They've got good, young talent. They've got a lot of picks. They signed some really, really good players. I think this is gonna be a team on the rise. That's what it feels like. Obviously, a lot of it is Justin Fields, his health.
"This team feels like a team that's heading in the right direction."