Bears quarterback Justin Fields' 2022 season featured flashes of the talents that had enticed the Bears into trading up to draft him No. 11 overall in the 2021 draft.
But while his performance was a great starting point to prove he can be the franchise QB, there's still more to learn. And as Chicago prepares to open offseason workouts with a revamped offense, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Fields is already showing growth compared to his last offseason.
"Where he was at this time last year to where he is now, I think he's just light-years ahead of where he was," offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Saturday, via the Chicago Tribune. "And I feel like he has a ton more to grow going forward. So we're excited to try to get the best out of him moving forward and keep working toward where we think he can go."
The Bears' final 3-14 record may not have reflected it, but Fields made great strides in his sophomore season, most notably in the running game. The 23-year-old broke multiple QB records in rushing on his way to a team-leading 1,143 yards and eight TDs, using his legs to keep his team in games.
But there were still things to improve upon, as Fields led the league in fumbles (16) and struggled with the passing game at times, including throwing 11 interceptions and averaging under 150 passing yards per game.
Though the offseason is still in its early phases, Fields is already putting in the hours to improve those numbers, with head coach Matt Eberflus seconding his OC's assertion that Fields is showing visible improvement in key areas.
"Part of that (needed improvement) is rhythm and timing. That's the footwork with Justin," Eberflus said. "He's been working on that really, really good in terms of the quick pass, dropback pass, movement pass, and he's really made some big strides in that area coming in so far -- on his own and now coming into the phase two (of the offseason), that first week."
The Bears should be excited if Fields can unlock his potential in the passing game, and the offensive acquisitions Chicago has made this offseason will certainly help lay the groundwork for a significant jump in production.
In addition to bolstering the running back and offensive line positions to support Fields, the Bears have also shored up their pass-catching unit, extending WR Equanimeous St. Brown, signing tight end Robert Tonyan and drafting WR Tyler Scott of Cincinnati.
But the most important addition came through the Bears' deal with the Panthers to trade away the No. 1 pick, in which they received WR D.J. Moore as part of the monster haul. Moore has proven himself a reliable and explosive No. 1 receiver, collecting 1,100-plus yards in three of his five seasons and finishing with 888 receiving yards in 2022 even with the Panthers' QB chaos.
Considering that no player on the Bears' 2022 roster finished with more than 550 receiving yards, adding depth and a certified WR1 at the position was an area of need heading into 2023, and it looks like Chicago has done so.
With rookie minicamps underway and veterans set to report to organized team activities within the next few weeks, there hasn't been much opportunity as of yet for Fields to work with with his new receivers. But Getsy believes that once Fields and Moore get that chance to build a camaraderie, everything will flow from there.
"As great of a quarterback as you can be or as great as a receiver can be, if there's not a relationship and a connection between the two of them, then it doesn't really matter," Getsy said. "What's cool is DJ's experiences that he's had, he's had to play with a few different quarterbacks and a few different systems. So you can tell he doesn't really get fazed by the new, which is going to be really good. Once those two can communicate with each other -- body language, quick communication verbally and stuff -- all that will get better as we get going."
There's still months of work ahead before the Bears will be able to see whether their offseason moves will translate into much-needed wins. But based on the growth they've already seen and expect to see from their quarterback, things could be looking up in the Windy City.