Updated: Jun 28
The Chicago Bears have had quite the off-season after posting a league-worst 3-14 record in 2022, thanks very much to Lovie Smith and his Houston Texans, who “blew” the final game of the year with a late touchdown and two-point conversion to win.
Now that is all in the past, and Ryan Poles hasn’t wasted any time getting to work to build a franchise around Quarterback Justin Fields. He’s been doing very nicely trading with the Carolina Panthers to get an extra first and Wide Receiver, DJ Moore, amongst other things, for the number one overall pick and a solid free agency.
The division seems wide open with some of the other squads inside the NFC North struggling in the off-season and the long-awaited departure of Former Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers to New York. Here are the four keys to how the Bears can shock the league and take home the NFC North in 2023.
Justin Fields Has The Third-Year Breakout
As many Bears fans and beyond know, the Bears are giving Fields everything to set him up for a hopeful breakout season. However, ultimately it’s up to Fields himself to show what he is truly capable of as a passer this season, and there’s nowhere to run this time.
With the vast trade early in the off-season followed by help on the (W)right side of the offensive line via the first round of the draft with Right Tackle Darnell Wright out of Tennessee.
Justin Fields will have a much better surrounding cast than last season, but whether or not Fields can take the strides needed to boost this team to the next level of play falls on his shoulders now.
Help from new additions in both free agency and the draft to an offense capable of putting 30 points on the board surely will help. All that combined with his work ethic and knowledge of the game, there’s cause for the buzz that a franchise quarterback may finally be in Chicago.
Defense Takes A Significant Step
Much of the Bears early off-season success were the signings of linebackers Tremaine Edmunds from Buffalo Bills and TJ Edwards from the Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia Eagles.
While these signings are enormous for the Bears, who have a well-known history at the position, they also got some smaller name pieces to help out the defensive line, which finished dead last in sacks in 2022. The draft saw them address the position well on day two, snagging Defensive Tackles Gervon Dexter from Florida and Zach Pickens from South Carolina.
The most significant question mark with this Defense is who will start up front and whether or not they can get some pressure up front to help out the back seven. They will suffice if they can take even a tiny step forward. Now if they take that major step, look for this defense to be near the top ten and the cornerstone to a potential playoff appearance.
Take Advantage Of A Wide Open Division
It’s no secret that the NFC North is not a powerhouse division, nor is it as black and blue as it was in the past. With the Minnesota Vikings being the only team to make the playoffs last season and not making it out of the Wild Card round, it shows that the door is open for whoever wants to take the keys that formally belonged to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for themselves.
Right now, the biggest threat to the Bears owning the crown in the future appears to be the Detroit Lions. Yes, you heard that correctly. Detroit has taken significant strides in the past few seasons behind head coach Dan Campbell and his infamous kneecap biting. Looking at the roster, there aren’t many names that will jump off the page for them, however, and even for the other teams in the division, except for wide receiver Justin Jefferson from Minnesota.
I’d almost go as far as to say the Bears have the biggest names in the division, which shows that those six games will be a huge reason why the Bears are back in the playoffs, or if they find themselves with another bottom-five record in 2024.
Rookies Make An Immediate Impact
Many are pleased with how Ryan Poles drafted his second time out, and the draft has received some high praise from experts around the league. Unfortunately for Ryan Poles and the Bears, the only thing that matters is how the players perform on the field.
There’s no doubt Poles believes that will be the case, as do many fans, but it will also be possibly the most essential key to the Bears’ success in 2023 and beyond for the franchise’s future.
Poles did a great job selecting players that fit needs while also taking the best available player when the time was right; getting multiple day-one starters in a draft is always going to be huge for a team that is in the early stages of a rebuild, and the general manager did well here.
Most of the focus now shifts to how Darnell Wright holds down his side of the o-line, which was one of the biggest concerns for the Bears coming into this draft, and for a good reason.
The big guys up front will be where almost all the rest of the focus point will be as they arrive at Halas Hall to a significantly depleted defensive line, as aforementioned. Everyone knows those guys will see a lot of watchful eyes, but electric weapons such as wide receiver Tyler Scott from Cincinnati and Roschon Johnson from Texas are what catch my eye going into the season.
The hope is that their spark can lead to long-standing success in Chicago. While Bears fans can all look forward to the team’s future, everyone wants to win now, and with this unit, this team can find some magic and make it happen.
Don’t be surprised if Chicago doesn’t take the super leap everyone hopes for; it is just the second year of a long-needed rebuild. However, if all the stars align for Chicago, there’s no doubt the city will be riled up. Either way, Bears fans are in for an exciting season.
Check out some unfiltered, fan-driven sports journalism at Stadium Rant!