The Bears are assembling a dangerous squad, and they’re doing so around Justin Fields.
The club’s blockbuster trade out of the No. 1 overall spot in the upcoming draft cemented Fields as the franchise cornerstone at quarterback, a decision head coach Matt Eberflus discussed with NFL Network’s Judy Battista at the Annual League Meeting on Saturday.
“I was with him the whole year,” Eberflus said. “I was in all the quarterback meetings. And I really spent the first year building that relationship with him as a head coach and quarterback. He just showed me grit and, toughness, work ethic, his teammates love him. All the things that come with that position, he exuded those traits for sure.”
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To go along with the intangibles, Fields took a leap in his second year under center, throwing for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while putting together the second-best QB rushing season in league history with 1,143 yards on the ground.
His pocket presence is still a work in progress, as evidenced by his league-worst 55 sacks taken and a middling 60.4 completion percentage, but the brass in Chicago can see enough in the tea leaves.
“I think it’s like any position on our team,” Eberflus said. “We all need to grow because we have a young football team. And he’s no different. He just needs to keep working his game. He’s working hard this offseason on his own. Looking at the tape from last year, looking at other quarterbacks, studying other quarterbacks in different situations. Third down, two-minute and all those various situations you get into. And he’s doing a great job at that.”
With Fields fine-tuning his game as the headliner of a team filled with young, still-evolving playmakers, the Bears have used the offseason to equip more proven talent.
On the defensive side of the ball, that meant replacing the void left after trading Roquan Smith, who went on to have an All-Pro 2022 season in Baltimore. Chicago did that by adding linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, who have seven combined seasons with 100-plus tackles in their nine years played.
On the offensive side, the acquisition was even grander. Turning the No. 1 pick into two firsts and two second-round picks provides sufficient ammo for the coming years, but sweetening the pot with wide receiver D.J. Moore is exactly what Fields requires to take the next step.
Moore became Chicago’s top WR the moment the trade occurred. He brings 346 career receptions, 5,201 yards and 21 touchdowns from his five seasons in Carolina.
Paired alongside the big-bodied Chase Claypool and a well-rounded speedster in Darnell Mooney, the Bears suddenly have a trio capable of attacking opposing secondaries in every which way.
“It’s the skill,” Eberflus said about how Moore’s acquisition will help Fields’ development. “The skill you put around a quarterback is awesome that we’re doing this offseason. D.J. is one of those big pieces that we did acquire. D.J. is a great receiver. He’s got great yardage after catch, great receiving yards per catch, all those things. He’s a better person, though. I got a chance to eat dinner with him and visit with his family, and he’s an outstanding young man.”
Of course, all of the wheeling and dealing at this point means little until tested on the field. The Bears, coming off a 3-14 season, have just two postseason trips and one season over .500 in the last decade.
But it’s still hard to deny what they’re putting together on paper.
“It’s in a good spot,” Eberflus said about his pre-draft roster. “It’s in a lot better spot than it was at the end of the season, and we’re certainly excited about the talent. Now it’s up to us coaches to put those guys in position to make plays and bring them together as teammates.”
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