Bears look for Fields to make jump after trading for Moore, adding to offensive line

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears gave quarterback Justin Fields a new playmaking receiver and added to their offensive line in an effort to provide him with better protection.

Now, it's up to him to show that he can develop into the passer they need him to become. The Bears are counting on it in his third season after they finished with a league-worst 3-14 record last year.

“You want to see him improve everywhere,” general manager Ryan Poles said. "Obviously, what he did with his legs was outstanding. But in the pass game, look at the different scenarios, situations, two-minute, and continue to improve that.”

Fields dazzled last season with his blistering speed, not to mention instincts and power. He just missed the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,143 yards — 63 shy of Lamar Jackson's 1,206 for Baltimore in his 2019 MVP season — and ran for eight touchdowns.

Fields averaged a league-leading 7.1 yards per carry. He also became the first QB with three touchdown runs of 50 yards or more.

When it came to passing, it was a different story. With shaky protection and a lack of playmaking receivers, Fields completed about 60% of his passes for 2,242 yards. The former Ohio State star threw 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and was sacked 55 times, tying Russell Wilson for the league lead.

The moves Poles made created a belief that the foundation for success is in place and that the Bears will at least be more competitive this year. They upgraded the wide receiver spot in a big way when they acquired DJ Moore from the Carolina Panthers, adding him to a group that includes Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool. They also invested in their offensive line by drafting tackle Darnell Wright with the No. 10 overall pick and signing guard Nate Davis while moving Cody Whitehair back to center.

Now, it's on Fields.

He won't have to learn a new scheme after playing in three over the previous three years, with the move from college to the NFL and then a switch in coaches from Matt Nagy to Matt Eberflus following his rookie season. He's in his second year under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.

“I think any time you’re in the same offense two consecutive years, it does make it easier and you’re not having to learn a new offense, new protections, new language within an offense,” Fields said. “This offseason has definitely been easier for me in terms of diving deeper into the playbook and just a better understanding of it. I’ve definitely felt way more comfortable this offseason in OTAs than I have the past two, for sure.”

The moves the Bears made, plus his familiarity with the system, puts Fields at least in position to make a significant jump. If he does, the team would seem to have an easy decision after the season when it comes to picking up his fifth-year option for 2025. Otherwise, things could get real murky.

“You feel his confidence and I think he is confident in the offense,” said tight end Cole Kmet, who agreed to a contract extension on Wednesday. "We got a lot of work in this offseason -- the six weeks we had off, which was great. And you know his command and all that stuff is going to pick up and you feel that for sure.”

Fields predicted on a CBS podcast last week that he will throw for 4,000 yards this season. Considering that's happened 217 times in league history, it's not exactly a sky-high goal.

Then again, he plays for the Bears. And the founding NFL franchise is the only team without a 4,000-yard passer. Erik Kramer holds the club record with 3,838 yards in 1995.

“A Bears quarterback hasn’t done it yet, so that would be cool. With the help of this guy,” Fields said, motioning to Moore, “hopefully I can get there.”


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