As the Bears get ready to kickoff the 2023 NFL season against the Green Bay Packers, there’s one simple reason to believe things will be better on offense this year: they already know the offense. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is back. Justin Fields is back. The bulk of the group has a foundation of knowledge from going through 2022 together. Obviously, adding major playmakers like DJ Moore will help elevate the floor of the team this season, but even if the Bears hadn’t made major roster moves like that, that foundation alone would’ve helped. After all, this is the first time in Fields’ professional career that he’ll work with the same offensive coaches for a second year in a row.
At a very surface level, that comfortability helps because the Bears have already had a full year to be exposed to Getsy’s concepts, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. That’s not to say things are going to be perfect, but some of the more basic miscues that we don’t notice or can’t identify as outsiders should be cleaner. That should help Fields.
“When you know where someone’s gonna be, when they’re supposed to be there, there’s a lot of comfort in a quarterback that can let it loose,” said Getsy.
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That wasn’t always the case last year, when receivers would run incorrect routes, which would in turn lead to easy interceptions for opponents.
The Bears players have also already gone through the initial feeling out process with their coaches, and vice versa. One of the greatest strengths the coaching staff overall showed last season was their ability to adapt their schemes to their players. Things were clunky over the first half of the season, so during a “mini-bye” the team enjoyed between Weeks 6 and 7 there was an overhaul. The offense was re-organized around Fields’ legs, since it was the best thing going for the team. It led to a burst in production. The lessons learned in that mini-bye carry over to this year, too.
“We know what we want to do on offense and we know what we want to get accomplished,” said Fields.
“I would say I feel better about the identity overall,” said head coach Matt Eberflus.
Simply put, the Bears feel like they have a better understanding of their offensive identity heading into Week 1 this year, than they did heading into Week 1 last year.
“We’ve refined a lot of things that we did last year and things that we want to do better,” said running back Khalil Herbert. “I feel like our identity is still that we want to run the ball, and everything goes off that.”
“I think we’ve all got a better feeling with each other, how we’re going to attack teams and stuff like that,” said left tackle Braxton Jones. “Personally, I feel 10 times better scheme-wise with what’s going on.”
Jones believes that the Bears developed an identity beyond Xs and Os by going through last year’s adversity.
“We know how it’s going to go down, especially playing Green Bay. We know it’s going to be a fight to the end, but at the end of the day it’s going to be whoever finishes the longest. When it comes down in that fourth quarter, who really wants it that much? I think at the end of the day, that’s going to be us fighting, scratching, clawing. We did it all last year, even to be in games. I think that’s the biggest thing, just continue to finish and make some of those guys quit at the end of the day.”
The identity is clear enough at this stage, that newcomers caught on quickly. They were either able to sense what the Bears are trying to build, or were told what to expect.
“Very physical up front,” said rookie Roschon Johnson. “Lot of movement. Lot of different moving pieces to disguise, and really just try to get a bead on the defense.”
“It was something that we talked about before I even signed here,” said free agent signee D’Onta Foreman. “Then it was instilled when we got to OTAs, and through training camp we knew what we wanted to do and how we wanted to attack.”
Even though the Bears have a stronger foundation to build upon, construction on offense is still not complete. Late summer practices and some preseason action alone showed work remains to be done as the team fleshes out the frame of their offense. Defenses will adjust to the Bears strengths, and the Bears will have to put up some scaffolding to touch up areas that previously looked like finished products.
“It’s still little things and little details,” said Herbert. “I try to challenge myself to learn things about certain plays that we ran last year that I didn’t know last year. Just trying to learn everybody’s job on different things to take that next step in the offense.”
Further, new pieces like Nate Davis, Darnell Wright, Tyler Scott and Moore will need to be integrated in real game action.
“That’s kinda created,” said left guard Cody Whitehair. “You want to establish that during training camp, but it kinda evolves through the first few weeks of the season, if you will. We’ll see what the identity is come a few weeks.”
“Of course, we’re going to continue to improve throughout the year as the year goes along,” said Fields. “We do have new players on the team, going to have to find this new team’s identity but we already kind of do have an identity set in place from last year.”
This season will be a season about progress for the Bears. It’s unrealistic to believe the team can go from 3-14 basement dwellers to Super Bowl contenders in a year. Even a push for a division title will be tough, regardless of how people perceive the Vikings, Lions and Packers. But six or seven wins seem to be in reach. Typically fans don’t get excited for sub-.500 seasons, but if the Bears can show in 2023 that they learned from 2022, solidified their identity and built up the framework of their franchise, there will be real reasons to be optimistic about the long term success of the team.