The Bears are back in town. Chicago Bears Training Camp begins today at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. Preparations ahead of the 2023 NFL season are now in full swing.
Many people think that Chicago has a chance to make some noise in the NFC North and possibly make a playoff run. The Bears have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
However, there is something different in the air as training camp kicks off. In fact, there are several reasons for Bears fans to be optimistic about the team this year. Here are some things to look out for on both sides of the ball.
Justin Fields leads new-look offense
The Chicago Bears odds of success in 2023 rest on the shoulders of Justin Fields. Or rather, the legs of Justin Fields. The franchise’s dynamic young QB is looking to make a substantial leap in year three.
After some early struggles that included some injuries, Fields has developed into one of the NFL’s rising stars. However, he has done most of his damage with his legs. Fields rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, becoming the third quarterback in NFL history to reach that milestone.
Fields will need to improve in the passing game if Chicago wants to take a step forward, and he may have the pieces to do that now. They added wideout Chase Claypool in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season to go alongside Darnell Mooney.
However, the move to trade the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to acquire D.J. Moore from the Carolina Panthers might make this wide receiver core one of the best in the league. Claypool will have an entire offseason to get familiar with Fields and the system, while Moore give the Bears a legit No. 1 threat outside, something they haven’t had since Brandon Marshall.
Fields will also have help in the backfield. Khalil Herbert has flashed early in his career and is expected to take a load off Fields in the running game. The team also drafted OL Darnell Wright in the first round. He will play a key role in opening running lanes but also protecting Fields.
Bears spend money on defense
If Chicago wants to go from worst to first in the NFC North, they will need to see their defense step up in a big way. The Bears were the big spenders on the first day of NFL free agency this summer with a lump sum of $135.5 million.
Most of that money was spent on the defensive side of the ball. The team agreed to terms with inside linebackers Tremaine Edmunds (four years, $72 million) and T.J. Edwards, plus defensive end DeMarcus Walker (two years, $14 million).
The 2022 Bears defense was just the second in franchise history to rank last in points allowed per game for a single season with 27.2 ppg. The only other Bears defensive unit to rank last in the league for points allowed was the Hunk Anderson-led team from 1945. In a 10-game schedule, the team went 3-7, allowing 23.5 points per game.
There is hope that head coach Matt Eberflus can fuse these new pieces with some established veterans like Eddie Jackson and young studs like Jaquan Brisker. The truth is, there is nowhere to go but up for the Bears defense.
This could be the best Bears team since 2018
The Bears, who haven’t won a playoff game since 2010, are accelerating their rebuild with a wide-open NFC North. Aaron Rodgers has left the Green Bay Packers and is now a member of the New York Jets.
For those interested in NFL betting at an Illinois sportsbook, the Bears could be a steal if you believe in this team’s potential. At his best, Fields is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFC North. You are already in a great position to win a division if you have the best QB.
Most Illinois sports betting sites have the Lions as the favorite to win the division heading into the season. However, if the Bears can breakthrough, they could win the division for the first time since 2018.
The 2018 Chicago Bears went 12-4 and won the NFC North. However, they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round in the infamous ‘Double Doink game.’ However, if you look position group by position group, the 2023 Bears team might be right up there with their 2018 squad.
2018 Bears vs. 2023 Bears
The 2018 Bears had a better defense, which will likely prove true once the 2023 squad gets on the field. However, with a few tweaks, this year’s Bears defense could be respectable. The offensive line in 2018 was very solid and likely has the edge over 2023 as well.
Where 2023 gets the nod is at the offensive skill positions, which arguably have the most impact these days in the NFL. With Moore, Mooney and Claypool, the wideouts in 2023 are clearly better and deeper. Also, the tight end combo of Cole Kmet and Robert Tonyan will be a force to be wrecked with.
The real tipping point is at QB. That pits Justin Fields against former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky. Most fans would take any version of Fields over any version they saw of Trubisky, including during this playoff run. Trubisky struggled to push the ball down the field consistently. Pro Football Focus gave him the lowest grade of any quarterback on throws targeted 10-plus yards down the field in 2018.
We still are waiting to see precisely what kind of coach Eberflus is and if he is an upgrade over Matt Nagy. But all signs are pointing in a positive direction for this franchise. So fans should be excited as the team takes the field for training camp.
Bears training camp schedule
The Chicago Bears are holding Training Camp from July 26 through August 14. There will be nine public practices that fans can attend by obtaining a free ticket, which are available at Ticketmaster.com. Fans can select up to four tickets per date. The Meijer Chicago Bears Family Fest tickets are also on sale at ChicagoBears.com/camp.
Parking will not be available for fans at Halas Hall, within Conway Park or at any neighboring businesses. Free fan parking will be available at Hawthorn Mall. Shuttle buses will run regularly. Fans must present a valid mobile training camp ticket before getting on shuttle buses.