The Kansas City Chiefs will return home in Week 3 to host the Chicago Bears.
The Bears are looking to bounce back from a gloomy 2022 season in which they set a franchise record for the most losses with 14. They didn’t win a single game in November or December and were outscored 105-36 in their final three games. This led to some big offseason moves, including trading the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Chicago traded the No. 1 pick to the Carolina Panthers for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and receiver DJ Moore. The Bears selected big offensive tackle Darnell Wright with their first-round pick, then took defensive tackle Gervon Dexter and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson in the second round, all three should be Day 1 starters.
The Bears were also busy in free agency. They beefed up their linebacker corps by signing T.J. Edwards and Pro Bowler Tremaine Edmunds, then added defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who had a breakout season in 2022 with seven sacks for the Tennessee Titans. These additions should give a significant boost to a defense that surrendered the second-most rushing yards and most points in the NFL last season.
On the offensive side of the ball, Chicago landed guard Nate Davis to help sure-up its offensive line. The Bears also brought in running backs D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer, as well as tight end Robert Tonyan. They are banking on receivers Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney to step up opposite DJ Moore.
Despite their poor record in 2022, the Bears managed to rank first in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 177.3 rushing yards per game. Unfortunately, Chicago’s passing attack, led by quarterback Justin Fields, ranked dead last in the league. All eyes will be on the Bears’ passing game and if they did enough to improve it in 2023.
Let’s take a look at some of the Bears’ key players and their outlooks heading into the 2023 NFL season:
Fields is entering his pivotal third year in the NFL. He has already established himself as an elite runner who can create something out of nothing. He astonishingly finished seventh in the league in rushing yards last season, averaging a dominant 7.1 yards per carry with eight rushing touchdowns.
In 2022 Fields became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. The next step for him is to elevate his performance as a passer. Fields has completed less than 60 percent of his passes and has a lackluster 23-21 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the first two seasons of his young career.
The former Ohio State Buckeye already has a strong running game to lean on, plus the addition of DJ Moore should give him a big boost. The Bears’ offensive line will presumably be improved after its makeover this offseason, giving Fields the time and protection he needs to go through his progressions. If he hasn’t developed as a passer after this season, Chicago may have to re-evaluate Fields’ future with the team.
Moore will enter the scene in Chicago as the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver. Now in his sixth year, Moore has three career 1,000-yard seasons and probably would have had a fourth last year if not for poor quarterback play in Carolina. He did, however, set a career-high in touchdown receptions last season with seven.
The Bears will hope that Moore opens up things for the rest of their young WR corps and take their passing attack to the next level. Working with a developing quarterback won’t be anything new for Moore as that has been the case for most of his career. He is an excellent route runner with underrated speed and can handle the pressure of being an offense’s top target.
Kmet has shown flashes of brilliance since being drafted in 2020 and could put it all together in 2023. In 2021 he caught 60 passes for 612 yards but failed to find the endzone. Last season his production dipped to 50 catches for 544 yards, but he hauled in seven touchdowns, which ranked third among all tight ends in the NFL.
Six of Kmet’s TDs came in his last nine games. He’ll look to carry that momentum over into 2023 and start strong. The addition of DJ Moore could open things up even more for Kmet and the improved Bears’ offensive line could lead to more passing attempts. Keep Kmet in mind as a sleeper tight end in fantasy football.
Edmunds has been one of the best linebackers in the NFL since being drafted in 2018. He has recorded over 100 tackles in every season of his career and is a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Not only is he a tackling machine, he’s also no slouch as a pass defender as he had 10 pass breakups in 2022 and a 90.0 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus.
Edmunds now joins a linebacker corps in Chicago that could be one of the best in the league. He will likely become the leader of the defense sooner rather than later and shore up the middle of the Bears’ front seven.
Jackson was playing some of the best football of his career before tearing his Achilles in Week 12. He recorded 80 tackles and four interceptions with six passes defended in 2022. He only allowed one touchdown on the season and allowed a quarterback rating of just 66.4.
Jackson participated in drills during the Bears’ mini-camp and appears to be on track to start the 2023 season. He will be sorely needed as the Bears surrendered an average of 32 points per game without him last season. Jackson is a two-time Pro Bowler and a former first-team All-Pro.