Justin Fields

Why SI believes Bears pass game could be strength in 2023

The pass game was one of the team's weaknesses in 2022.

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It’s hard to peg exactly where the Bears will end up when everything is said and done over the course of the 2023 NFL season. There’s a world in which the defense doesn’t improve due to a lack of pass rush and the Bears remain in the league cellar. There’s another world in which Justin Fields improves drastically with a retooled offensive line and with new No. 1 wide receiver DJ Moore, and last year’s close losses turn into narrow victories this year.

To get ready for the upcoming season, Sports Illustrated is taking a deep dive into all 32 teams in 32 days. On Monday it was the Bears’ turn, and Matt Verderame argued that the Bears’ passing game will turn out to be the team’s strength.

“This is a stark change from last year, when the passing game was a disaster,” Verderame wrote. “This season Fields has the look of a dramatically improving quarterback, and he now has a true top-end receiver on the perimeter in Moore.”

“With Moore joining the fray, Darnell Mooney will go from an underwhelming No. 1 to a quality second option. Going further down the depth chart, Chase Claypool makes more sense as a third pass catcher, with Velus Jones Jr. and Equanimeous St. Brown filling out the room.”

Verderame didn’t even mention rookie Tyler Scott, who has an opportunity to earn a role in the offense as a speedy deep threat. Moore’s addition also allows the Bears wide receivers to settle into more defined roles than they used last season. 

“It helps a little bit more to be able to say OK, we kind of know what these guys are,” said Bears wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert last month. “We don’t have to try to search to see who can do what now, we kind of know what they can do and put them in position to make plays. It’s easier that way, for sure.”

The wide receivers room as a whole looks vastly different from last season. At this point in the year, we were debating who among the likes of St. Brown, Jones, Dante Pettis, Tajae Sharpe and David Moore would emerge as the No. 3 and 4 WRs behind Mooney and Byron Pringle. Now with more talent in the room, the question is which WR may be cut when the roster is eventually trimmed to 53 players.

Of course, things will look better regardless of any skill position upgrades if Fields takes the next step in his personal development. Fields says he’s more comfortable at this point in the year simply because he’s already got a year under his belt in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system. It’s the first time in his short professional career that he’s not starting from scratch in the summer program.

“It's truly amazing when you have that feeling going in, knowing where your guys are going to be, more comfortable with the footwork stuff,” Fields said during Bears OTAs. “It's been great.”

Add it all together and there are real reasons to believe that the Bears passing game could turn from a weakness into a strength.

“It’s not the Greatest Show on Turf,” wrote Verderame. “But the Bears have a real group with upside.”

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