Bears WR DJ Moore has potential to change everything for QB Justin Fields, offense

If Moore is able to fulfill GM Ryan Poles’ vision of him as a dominant No. 1 receiver, the effect would ripple through the offense. That’s a big if — and a lot of pressure — but it doesn’t seem to bother him.

SHARE Bears WR DJ Moore has potential to change everything for QB Justin Fields, offense
A photo of Bears wide receiver DJ Moore at a recent practice.

Moore has three 1,000-yard seasons in his five-year career.

AP Photos

The Bears have been marveling at receiver DJ Moore since the day he arrived as part of general manager Ryan Poles’ trade that sent the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers. The hype only has grown since he hit the field, and it seems someone is raving about a play he made after every practice.

It happened again Sunday, this time at Soldier Field, when Moore wrapped up his day of burning cornerbacks with an impressive touchdown catch against Elijah Hicks during red-zone work. Moore was going right to left across the back of the end zone, then cut back to the goalpost as quarterback Justin Fields fired the ball to him the moment he came out of his break.

There was no signal, no eye contact. It was just a ‘‘faith ball,’’ Moore said.

Moore’s talent is undeniable, and he’s a revelation for a franchise that rarely seems to have a playmaker of his caliber. Pretty much any good receiver who sets foot in Halas Hall has a chance to be the best in Bears history.

The only question left for Moore to answer is whether he can live up to the hype — or even exceed it — once the regular season starts. Will this fall flat, like other recent Bears dreams, or is Moore rising to a crescendo? As established as he is at this point, he thinks he’s still on his way up at 26.

‘‘I definitely am tapping into different things than I was before,’’ Moore said as his daughter, Arielle, interjected occasionally. ‘‘It might be a new skill set that you all see, but it’s still going to be the same me.’’

Even if Moore has peaked and the Bears merely get more of the same of what he did with the Panthers, it’s a victory. But Poles has been betting on the upside of nearly everyone he has signed or picked up in a trade. He shelled out big contracts for linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and tight end Cole Kmet and traded for receiver Chase Claypool, thinking all of them were approaching their prime.

That’s the idea with Moore, too. He was good with the Panthers but not quite great. He finished among the top 10 in the NFL in receiving yardage only once and is not in the tier of elite difference-makers such as Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs. Having eight starting quarterbacks in five seasons surely held him back.

The Bears, however, will hinder him similarly if Fields can’t take the next step. Ideally for them, he and Moore will spur each other forward.

One thing the Bears are looking for from Fields is quicker decisions, and having viable options helps. There were times last season when there was no prudent choice available. For much of last season, Darnell Mooney was the Bears’ only legitimate starting-caliber receiver.

When Fields took aim at the Super Bowl-bound Eagles, his receivers were Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis, Velus Jones, Nsimba Webster and Equanimeous St. Brown. Who’s your go-to guy in that group?

But Moore is fast and clever enough to create an opportunity every play.

‘‘The trust is growing,’’ coach Matt Eberflus said. ‘‘Guys are where they’re supposed to be. [Fields] knows that; he knows the rhythm and timing of that. . . . There’s a lot of detail to that, and those guys are starting to trust each other.’’

Trust and chemistry have been buzzwords in any conversation about Fields and Moore, and there has been an obsession about their secret offseason training sessions. That’s all beneficial, but talent is what makes the difference.

Moore is just better. That’s what matters most.

‘‘He’s just quicker than I thought he was,’’ Eberflus said.

Even with the Panthers’ instability, Moore’s 5,201 receiving yards in five seasons is more than the Bears’ franchise record. They’ve had only 13 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the last three decades. They went a decade without one — from Marty Booker in 2002 to Brandon Marshall in 2012 — and had another drought between Alshon Jeffery and Allen Robinson in 2015-18.

That explains the desperation. The Bears have battled Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss and Davante Adams in their division, but they don’t know what it’s like to have someone at that level. It’s understandable fans wanted to throw a parade the second Poles traded for Claypool last fall. They’re starved for it.

If Moore is able to fulfill expectations, the effect would ripple through the offense. Fields can’t help but be better with a weapon such as Moore. If defenses fixate on him, that should open things up for Kmet, Claypool and Mooney. If the Bears finally have a dangerous passing attack, opponents will be cautious about loading up against the run.

That’s a lot of ifs — and a lot of pressure — hinging largely on the impact of one player. But it doesn’t seem to bother Moore.

‘‘I’ve just been the same me,’’ he said. ‘‘I bring excitement to the team. It’s on a bigger platform now, so I guess everybody is excited, and I’m going to just keep running with it.’’

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