7 things to watch as Bears begin OTAs
The Chicago Bears have started the next phase of their offseason program with organized team activities (OTAs) at Halas Hall.
The Bears will meet as a team, veterans and rookies, for 10 voluntary workouts at Halas Hall. Those voluntary practices will be held from May 22-23, May 25, May 30-June 1 and June 5-8.
General manager Ryan Poles has added a slew of new faces to the roster, and they should serve impact roles for Chicago this season. There are a number of storylines to monitor throughout the offseason, including the progression of Justin Fields and plenty of competition across the board.
Here’s what we’ll be watching as the Bears begin OTAs this week:
Justin Fields' progression
All eyes will be on quarterback Justin Fields in his third season as the Bears’ starting quarterback. After a breakout year in 2022, where Fields established himself as the league’s best running quarterback, the expectation is Fields will take the next step forward in the passing game. Poles has upgraded the weapons and offensive line around Fields, so there are no more excuses. We shouldn’t overreact to anything that happens during offseason workouts — whether positive or negative. But all eyes will be on Fields to see how comfortable he is in Luke Getsy’s offense in Year 2 and how he’s improved from a mechanical standpoint.
Who's bringing the pass rush?
The Bears had the worst pass rush in the NFL last season (with just 20 sacks), and it’s hard to feel confident about this current group heading into the 2023 season. While Chicago did add some veterans in the offseason — DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green — they still lack a star off the edge. Poles hinted that the team was still exploring veteran options, whether that’s via free agency or a trade. But for a group that consists of Walker, Green, Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson, all eyes will be on those defensive ends and who’s able to bring pressure.
First glimpse at new offensive line
The offensive line was a focal point for the Bears this offseason after Fields was sacked 55 times in 15 games last season. While the projected starting group returns three starters from the previous season — Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins and Cody Whitehair — the two new additions in Nate Davis and rookie Darnell Wright shore up the right side of the line. This will be the first time this offensive line group works together as they build a rapport. The only question is whether it’ll be Whitehair or Lucas Patrick at center — where Whitehair figures to have the early lead — and we could see them share reps during the offseason and training camp.
New-look wide receiver group
Don’t look now, but the Bears have their best wide receiver group in a long time. Chicago acquired DJ Moore in a trade of the No. 1 pick, which gives Fields a legitimate WR1 to help jumpstart the passing game. With Moore leading the way, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool, both in a contract year, round out the starting wideouts. The Bears also drafted Tyler Scott and return veterans Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones Jr. and Dante Pettis to the group. But, let’s be honest, the main focus will be on the acclimation of Moore, who is building a rapport with his new QB.
Competition at running back
Following the departure of David Montgomery in free agency, the Bears overhauled the running back room with several new faces. Khalil Herbert is the lone returning veteran, and he’s expected to get the first crack at RB1 in what’s ultimately a committee approach. Chicago also signed D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer in free agency, where Foreman proved to be productive replacing Christian McCaffrey in Carolina. But the wild card is rookie Roschon Johnson, who many believe could establish himself as the long-term starter. There’s no doubt there’s going to be plenty of competition at running back, which begins during offseason workouts.
The new faces
The Bears welcomed a slew of new faces to the roster this offseason, between free agency and the NFL draft. New Bears joining the fray this season include wide receivers DJ Moore and Tyler Scott, linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, offensive linemen Darnell Wright and Nate Davis, defensive linemen Andrew Billings, Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens, running backs D’Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and tight end Robert Tonyan. They’ll get their first action during offseason workouts.
Injured players making their return
The Bears were ravaged by injuries last season, including to some top contributors like safety Eddie Jackson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney. There are a number of players returning from injury who should be participating in offseason workouts, including quarterback Justin Fields, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, linebacker Jack Sanborn, offensive lineman Lucas Patrick and cornerback Kindle Vildor. Others like Jackson and Mooney most likely won’t be participating in offseason workouts as they continue their rehab. The hope is they’ll be ready for training camp.
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