Optimism is running rampant in every camp across the NFL. "No reason why this team can't go 17-0!" "Our defense is the best in the NFL!" "First the division, then the conference and we will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Vegas at the end of the season!" "Our quarterback is looking like an MVP candidate!" Ok, you get the point and that last one you may have even heard ESPN's Dan Orlovsky mention Justin Fields and the MVP in the same sentence. But we are at the point of the NFL season where speculation and guessing is the best part until questions begin to be answered week 1. Until then, we rely on our observations from camp and reports being put out there.
Here are my observations so far during Chicago Bears 2023 training camp:
The buzz is real - Defense
Justin Fields aside, the acquisitions Ryan Poles has done to fill the gaping holes on this roster have started to shine. Fields on Tremaine Edmunds, "I mean goodness gracious. We had one play today where if it was any other linebacker in the country, (the receiver) would have been open. Just his presence, he's so huge. It has been great for us as an offense to have him out there, to challenge us every day. And he's been a great defensive leader so far." - Which is a huge quote coming from Fields because of the struggles the Chicago Bears defense had last year. Speaking of defense! The first team defense showed out on the 2nd day of pads as Nickel corner, Kyler, Spiderman, Gordon had a gravity defying interception defending Velus Jones Jr. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson picked off PJ Walker and Rookie, Tyrique Stevenson had an interception against Justin Fields that should have been caught by former Packer, Robert Tonyan. After all these great plays, you hear and feel the energy from the defense! Guys are out there making each other better... after all, iron sharpens iron but will the additions on the defensive line (Rookie Gervon Dexter, Rookie Zaach Pickens, FA Andrew Billings, FA DeMarcus Walker) be able to allow the guys in the secondary to make plays when it counts?
Don't think I'll walk away from this part of the article without talking about the offensive side of the ball! To say what the Chicago Bears rolled out last year was pedestrian might be an insult to some of the people walking past the office window I'm staring out of as I write this. The addition of DJ Moore will legitimize the offense. I'll save you the time of reading about the stats that Moore had with a lack of stability at the QB position... Let's just say the guy is damn good and it will be the first time Justin Fields will have a viable number 1 receiver since he played at Ohio State. The addition of Moore will open things up for Darnell Mooney, who has recovered nicely from his ankle surgery in the off season, Chase Claypool who has been making plays in training camp and, let me tell you, has an elite presence at 6'4 and a stature of a Greek God (just hope he can put all the physical gifts on the turf) AND finally the newly resigned Cole Kmet. Justin Fields has had better good days at camp than bad (7-1) and being in the second year in the Luke Getsy offense, the guys are pumped! Saying Getsy, "It's fun to be able to talk deeper into the concepts and stuff." Of course it is Luke... consistency and rapport will make you a better football team. Let Fields eat baby!
Speaking of Fields
Justin Fields might be the most polarizing player outside of the guy in New York this offseason. As of writing this, according to On Tap Sports, Fields is currently the most bet on NFL player to win the NFL MVP. On the opposite end of the spectrum, visit any NFC North fan group and you'll see, "He's a running back playing QB!!!!!" You may even hear it at your local watering hole that Justin Fields isn't the real deal... well, I'm here to tell you I'll buy stock in that he is the answer at QB for a franchise starving for one! During the offseason, Fields has worked on his footwork and the chemistry amongst his skill position teammates. Chase Claypool has benefited the most, in my opinion, of any player working with Fields. This has allowed Claypool to thrive during camp so far and be able to gain a better grasp of the playbook. DJ Moore is already developed into Fields' favorite target as stories are continuously coming out about deep balls being completed to the newly acquired Bear. Rookie Tyler Scott is a walking fast twitch muscle on a team in need of a solid receiver depth. He has continuously gotten behind the Bears secondary in camp and Fields has found him. The skill position players back from injury and newly acquired guys surrounding Fields will allow a true evaluation of "H1M" this year and, drinking the Bears Kool-Aid, he will be 3500+ passing with 25+ TDs. I SAID IT!
Key rookies balling out
After using the wrong offseason workout, Darnell Wright entered the physical evaluation in tip top cardio shape. He blew away the rest of his teammates in the multiple 100 yard sprints they had to perform for their evaluation. What training workout caused Wright to dominate his fellow offensive lineman AND lose 15+ lbs? Well, that training workout he used was actually for wide receivers! I love it from the perspective of it being a fun offseason story. It's fodder until the season begins. What Darnell Wright has done during camp though, has been the story. It's been told before pads were even put on that Wright was pancaking his teammates! His footwork from snap to anchor is veteran level already and bookend tackle, Braxton Jones has taken notice even. Jones on Wright, "(I have) taken some of his techniques away and tried to put it in my game a little bit."
On the opposite side of the ball, cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith are making plays vying for the starting position opposite of Jaylen Johnson. Bears coaches have made it abundantly clear that there is open competition and both players are thriving. During the second day with pads, Stevenson locked up DJ Moore and had a PBU (pass breakup) defending Robert Tonyan. Not to be out done, Smith dove to break up a pass by Justin Fields tipping it causing an Eddie Jackson interception. Nothing like friendly competition bringing out the best of each player... to which Stevenson said, "It's a competition until the end. We both got drafted. For opportunities, it really doesn't matter where you get drafted at. He (Terell Smith) comes in everyday with his head down willing to work, just as I am."
Can't wait for these guys to go against someone other than their own teammates! August 12th vs the Titans can NOT come fast enough!
Until Next time..... Go Bears and Bear Down
Cover Photo via Bearswire/USA Today