Ascending Offense: The Burgeoning Bears

by Joel Ybarra · Contracts & Free Agency

Ryan Poles is Dealing

In this Ascending Offense series, we are highlighting offensive units gearing up to hit ceiling production in 2023. NFL teams are currently filling gaps in their rosters with free-agent signings and we are fully entrenched in NFL Draft season. The Chicago Bears made the biggest move of the offseason thus far, trading the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Panthers.

They received in return a haul of picks and their new Alpha Wide Receiver, D.J. Moore. Ryan Poles, named the Bears’ General Manager in January 2022, is responsible for the deal. Poles has been dismantling the roster in 2022, but armed with a throng of draft picks and a surplus of salary cap space, he is tooling up for 2023. The Bears’ offense will profit.

Chicago finished with the league’s worst record in 2022: 3-14. No surprises there – the roster was stripped bare. The team did not have their first round draft pick in 2022 after trading it to move up and take Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Poles made only modest free agent signings on offense in 2022, acquiring receivers Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Dante Pettis. He then traded for N’Keal Harry and drafted Velus Jones in the third round. Overall, Fields had a lackluster supporting cast. Poles also traded away Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith to stock up on future picks. It’s almost as if he had designs on securing the No. 1 pick in 2023.

Flipping the 1.01 for D.J. Moore and four additional draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2024, now makes Poles look like a mastermind. The Bears are tooling up to see what Fields can do with a cupboard full of toys. Let’s look at the pieces already in place and the likelihood of a Bears breakout in 2023.


The Bears hired new head coach Matt Eberflus and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy in January 2022, days after Poles was named GM. Getsy was the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay during Aaron Rodgers’ two straight MVP seasons. His name was bandied about for head coaching positions before his first season in Chicago was even complete.

Getsy did some things right with the offense in 2022. The Bears led the NFL in rushing with 3,014 yards, nearly 300 yards more than the next-best team, the Ravens. Chicago was also the most efficient rushing team, leading the league with 5.4 yards per attempt. It is not surprising the Bears recorded so many rush yards. Fields was running around like a bat out of hell, racking up yards with some electrifying long runs. That, and his best pass catchers were undersized “alpha” wide receiver Darnell Mooney and third-year tight end Cole Kmet. The coaching staff just emphasized what was working – the running game – and the offense was better for it.

It is encouraging when coaches are self-aware and flexible enough to make changes mid-season to capitalize on the strengths of their personnel. For the first six games of 2022, the Bears scored a measly 15.5 points per game. The coaching staff turned Fields loose running in Week 7 and instituted more play-action passing. From that point forward, the offense scored an average of 21.2 points per game. That was even while Fields injured his shoulder in Week 11 and his foot in Week 16. In Weeks 7 through 11 – before the shoulder injury – the Bears’ offense had more first downs per game (20 vs. 15), more total yards per game (365 vs. 293.5), and nearly twice as many points (29.6 vs. 15) than the first six weeks of the season.


There is no denying Fields is an electric runner. With 4.52 (98th-percentile) speed, he has top-tier wheels at QB. His running style has an unhinged quality and he does not shy away from contact. When Fields gets loose from the pocket, he has no intention of stopping or running out of bounds short of the end zone. His running ability opens up the offense, but it is clear what needs to work on is his passing. Remember, people questioned Lamar Jackson‘s passing chops, too, and Jalen Hurts’ as recently as last season. One year ago, we were questioning whether Hurts would even be the starter going forward in Philadelphia. Now he is the best quarterback in the NFC. What a difference a season makes.

This does not mean Fields will make the same jump, but he is an elite athlete drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft from a Big Ten school. In his best season at Ohio State (2019), he threw for more than 3,000 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. He will take steps forward passing in 2023. He knows he needs to get better. Fields also suffered through 2022 with one of the worst receiving corps in recent memory. His best receiver was Mooney, a 5-10, 178-pound fifth-round NFL draft pick. The newly acquired pass-catchers will balance the field in 2023 and give Chicago a serious passing attack not present for them last season. They will also continue to be more efficient on the ground because of the threat of Fields taking off and running.

Tooling Up

The Bears’ running back room already contains one of the league’s most efficient rushers in Khalil Herbert. Herbert was No. 5 in the league in True Yards Per Carry (5.2) in 2022 and No. 7 in Juke Rate (39.1-percent). He outdid starter David Montgomery in those metrics. Montgomery was No. 50 in True Yards Per Carry (3.9) and No. 9 in Juke Rate (34.5-percent). Herbert will take on a larger role in 2023 as the Bears let Montgomery go in free agency. They will augment the rushing attack with D’Onta Foreman, who can deal some body blows up the gut and balance Herbert.

D.J. Moore is a massive upgrade for the receiving unit. Here are the quarterbacks who have been throwing Moore the ball over the last three seasons: Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and Baker Mayfield. Only one of those (Mayfield) currently has a starting job in the NFL. Moore recorded just 888 yards last season but had 1,100-plus yard seasons in 2020 and 2021. He is going to be playing with the best quarterback of his career in Fields, and Fields in turn will be playing with the best receiver of his career as a pro. It’s a recipe ripe for passing game production.

The Bears also added Chase Claypool, a size-speed specimen who can play in the slot. Claypool did not get on the field much in 2022. He was apparently getting up to speed on the Bears’ offense. It remains to be seen if he will be productive as part of the offense in Chicago, but he will demand some attention from opposing defenses. Additionally, the Bears have oodles of cap space available and 10 draft picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, including the No. 9 overall pick, two second-rounders, and two fourth-rounders. They will most certainly keep tooling up.

Offensive Line

The Bears’ offensive line facilitated the run game success in 2022 but allowed the No. 4-most sacks in pass protection. Going into 2023, the Bears have some holes to fill. Fifth-round draft pick Braxton Jones played every snap at left tackle and returns in 2023. 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins moved to guard in 2022 and became a solid part of the line. Poles signed Titan guard Nate Davis in free agency to a 3-year, $30 million dollar deal. The Bears also picked up tackle Alex Leatherwood off waivers before the 2022 season. Leatherwood was a 2021 first-round pick (1.17). The Bears passed on signing an elite tackle like Mike McGlinchey or Orlando Brown in free agency, but with all the draft capital they have available, they will stock up on the offensive line, including a highly-rated tackle prospect.

Ascending Assets to Acquire

Justin Fields

Fields is already being drafted as QB4 (third round overall) behind Mahomes, Allen, and Hurts, per Underdog ADP. Underdog drafters remember when Hurts was drafted in the fifth round last year and then finished as the No. 1 ranked quarterback in fantasy points per game.  It is not too far-fetched to imagine Fields outscoring all QBs in fantasy in 2023. Just as with Hurts, if Fields makes any improvement as a passer, he will outdo his QB5 finish in points per game from last season. He will assuredly take strides forward with the upgraded pass-catchers he will have available.

Khalil Herbert

Herbert is being drafted as RB30 in Underdog drafts, in the eighth round overall. The Bears may add another back in the draft. It is just as likely, however, that with the additions of Foreman and Travis Homer, the running back room is full and the Bears will let Herbert loose on opposing defenses.

That makes him a screaming buy. He can be acquired beyond the RB Dead Zone, near pick 100.

D.J. Moore

Moore has had some productive seasons with some bad quarterbacks. He will be the Alpha in Chicago but will have better receivers across from him than the last two seasons, in addition to getting an upgrade at QB. His ceiling is higher than even his current WR21 Underdog ADP. Moore is a formidable deep threat for Fields. With the passing game working, he will have a breakout season in 2023 and finish in the top 15.

The Bears Will Break Out

The Bears are not finished making moves to facilitate their offensive breakout in 2023. It is time to cash in the capital they have amassed over the past year-plus. It may take some time for all the pieces to coalesce into a productive unit, but it is hard to see this offensive unit failing to take some large leaps in the coming season.

Now is the time for fantasy gamers to strike since reviews are mixed on whether this offense will reach ceiling outcomes. Fantasy gamers are unbelieving that Fields is a competent passer and that Moore is a top-tier fantasy wide receiver. Buy in before the breakout is in full effect.