Connection with DJ Moore buoys Justin Fields

With a No. 1 wide receiver, more overall weapons and his own improved leadership skills, the Bears’ third-year quarterback is excited about taking a giant leap in 2023. “Everybody’s been great up to this point, and we just look to take that next step,” he said.

SHARE Connection with DJ Moore buoys Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields is looking to make a big improvement in the passing game in 2023.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields is looking to make a big improvement in the passing game in 2023.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Justin Fields’ chemistry with wide receiver DJ Moore — the most popular storyline of the Bears’ offseason — is not a myth.

“It did come on quickly,” Fields said after the Bears completed their three-day mandatory minicamp Thursday at Halas Hall. “I didn’t really expect anything because it’s different for each guy. But I feel like with DJ, his body language is pretty easy to read. Early on, we communicated how we want each route run and stuff like that.”

Except perhaps for the development of the offensive line as an NFL-quality pass-protection unit, Fields’ connection with the veteran Moore figures to be the biggest factor in the Bears’ offense taking a giant leap from 32nd and last in the NFL in passing yards, 28th in total yards and 23rd in scoring.

And from the time they stepped on the same field in the Bears’ offseason program, Fields’ performance in practices made it clear that Moore indeed was the No. 1 receiver. The connection was evident and immediate. That’s one advantage of general manager Ryan Poles acquiring a veteran receiver instead of a highly drafted rookie to be Fields’ go-to guy. There are fewer formalities and introductions and no concern about bruising the sometimes fragile egos in a wide receiver room.

“Of course, he has a lot of experience. He’s been good in the league for a good period of time now,” Fields said. “He’s played a lot of football, so he knows different coverages really well.

“That’s one thing I was kind of impressed about, with the offense coming in and just understanding, seeing coverages really well on short routes and stuff like that, he’s been great. And the chemistry has really picked up.”

The Fields-Moore connection is the most tangible evidence — to outside observers, anyway — of Fields’ potential to take the Bears’ offense to a respectable — maybe even an NFL-playoff quality — level in Year 2 under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. Fields averaged an NFL-low 149.5 passing yards per game last season and was sacked 55 times in 15 games.

With Moore in place, an improved overall receiving corps, an offensive line that is set going into training camp instead of searching for the best combination and Getsy in his second season as offensive coordinator, Fields should at least enter training camp with the best chance yet to prove he’s the franchise quarterback the Bears expect him to be.

There are still plenty of question marks — it almost wouldn’t be a Bears offense if there weren’t. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney has missed the entire offseason program while he recovers from season-ending surgery on his ankle. Wide receiver Chase Claypool missed the last two weeks of the offseason program because of a soft-tissue injury. And the offensive line has only one player in the same position as last season — second-year left tackle Braxton Jones — with rookie Darnell Wright having a lot to prove as the starter at right tackle.

But if everything comes together, it’ll be up to Fields to develop into a quarterback who can put a team on his shoulders and will it to victory. And, unlike the Fields-Moore connection, that’s one narrative that is difficult to see in June. But the anecdotal evidence is there, with tight end Robert Tonyan and left guard Teven Jenkins the latest teammates to weigh in on Fields’ leadership abilities.

Tonyan’s endorsement carries the most weight. He spent his first five seasons with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. So he knows what quarterback leadership looks like.

“He’s an impressive young player,” Tonyan said. “Obviously a great athlete, but he is very competitive and self-reflective and he could be better. When you have a competitive person who is internally motivated and a leaders like he is … he’s only going to continue to grown and get better.”

Jenkins’ testimony also was meaningful.

“He carries himself like a 10-year vet,” Jenkins said. “Just seeing how he commands that huddle and what he wants to see out of all of us. It’s like a wake-up call for me to see that I need to start pushing myself to get on his level because he’s demanding that sort of effort out of all of us.”

We’ll know for sure under the fire of the regular season, when Fields not only has to keep everybody’s head on straight but also execute in a tense win-or-lose moment. But for now, he is feeling the momentum of that leadership role.

“I just think everybody’s buying in, even more than last year, so that’s great to see,” Fields said. “I’ve definitely grown as a leader. I think even with all the new guys coming in, they’ve made it easy; they’ve bought into our culture here, just competing day-in and day-out and having that championship mind-set.

“We’re all working towards the same goal, and I think we’ve gotta take it one day at a time. Everybody’s been great up to this point, and we just look to take that next step.”

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