General supervisor Ryan Poles had grand targets for the Chicago Bears season finale. He hoped they might stroll into Lambeau Field, finish the Green Bay Packers’ playoff hopes and punctuate a late-season run of success that might have included three consecutive NFC North wins and a 6-2 report over the ultimate eight video games.
Instead, the Bears have been smacked round in a 17-9 loss to their rivals that was not almost as shut because the rating. Poles left Wisconsin dazed, headed right into a pivotal offseason with a well timed but sobering realization.
“We’re just not there yet,” Poles stated final week at an end-of-season information convention.
“There” is the Bears’ goal vacation spot, nonetheless off within the distance however a minimum of now in view.
“There” is getting nearer. Playoff rivalry. Legitimate championship hopes. Having a rock-solid crew that may persistently compete among the many league’s prime tier.
“We have to continue to get to a point where we take that next step and continue to add players to put ourselves in that position,” Poles stated.
That was as a lot a self-imposed directive because it was an epiphany. Poles is aware of the 2024 offseason is overflowing with alternative.
He owns the No. 1 decide within the April draft plus the No. 9 choice. The crew’s salary-cap well being is perfect to assault free company with calculated aggression. And the roster is stable sufficient on either side of the ball for Poles to focus on his subsequent cycle of roster strikes.
Poles affirmed his perception in Matt Eberflus as the best coach to steer this crew to the following degree, then vowed to proceed supplying Eberflus with game-changing playmakers who will assist.
The excellent news? The roster Poles overhauled during the last two years now’s provided with the sort of distinction makers the Bears have to make their subsequent leap.
It’s merely about including extra. Piece by piece. Player by participant. And there’s motive to really feel optimistic about what Poles can accomplish over the following four-plus months.
A glance again on the roster enhancements in 2023 reveals three high-profile acquisitions that panned out precisely because the Bears hoped they might.
The superlative listing for Moore is written in Sharpie at Halas Hall and continues to elongate.
Productive. Driven. Unselfish.
Low upkeep, within the description of former Bears broad receivers coach Tyke Tolbert.
“One of the best receivers I ever coached with the non-’superstar’ demeanor was Demaryius Thomas in Denver,” Tolbert stated towards the top of the season. “He made 5 straight Pro Bowls and performed within the Super Bowl.
“DJ reminds me of Demaryius as far as his mindset and how he approaches the game. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but then he goes out there and plays and people go, ‘Ooooh!’ They look up to him not because he is the loudest in the room but because he is a good player.”
Tolbert was additionally amongst many within the Bears group who couldn’t cease raving about Moore’s toughness. Example: On the second play of a Week 16 win in opposition to the Arizona Cardinals, Moore suffered what gave the impression to be a gnarly proper ankle sprain. He went instantly to the blue medical tent on the sideline for analysis, then spent just a few moments on the bench.
No Bears coach or participant would have faulted Moore if he didn’t play once more that afternoon. Instead, he logged 50 extra snaps, dialed in on his restoration on Christmas and the day after and was by no means even listed on the harm report in Week 17.
“That joker is tough,” Tolbert stated.
Oh, and Moore adopted in that subsequent sport — a blowout of the Atlanta Falcons — with 9 catches, 159 yards and a landing, persevering with a profession 12 months in his first season in Chicago. He completed the season sixth within the league in receiving yards and eighth in receiving touchdowns whereas coaches and teammates lauded him as an every-week distinction maker.
Keep including to that superlative listing. Building block. Warrior. Star.
- Acquired: April 27, drafted at No. 10 after the Bears traded again twice
- 2023 stats: 17 begins, 1,133 snaps performed
The Bears fell in love with Wright through the pre-draft course of, then verified their perception in his upside throughout a non-public, on-campus exercise April 8 in Knoxville, Tenn. That deliberately grueling exercise was overseen by offensive line coach Chris Morgan, who almost 9 months later continues to rave concerning the profession ascent Wright has begun.
“Darnell is a really good football player right now,” Morgan stated this month. “And I believe he’s going to be a terrific soccer participant. He can do something that we ask. And when he does it, he does it proper.
“He has been dominant at times (this season). And that consistency piece that I mention with the young guys is (key). This is pro football. You have to be locked in for 70, 80, 62 plays — whatever the number is that day. You have to be locked in for every one of those or you’ll get exposed.”
Poles, a former offensive lineman, noticed Wright thrive together with his pure skill.
“In a lot of games,” Poles stated, “that was good enough.”
Now the Bears will push Wright to develop into extra polished and savvy whereas instructing him, in Poles’ description, easy methods to “use the right techniques versus the right players”
“There’s a Rolodex you’ve got to build out in terms of the pass rushers that you go against,” Poles stated. “Because they all have different stuff. So once he starts putting that together, you’re going to see a really good player.”
Morgan has coached offensive linemen for 15 years within the NFL and holds up All-Pros Trent Williams and Alex Mack and Pro Bowler Russell Okung as his commonplace.
“I’ve been around a lot of good ones,” Morgan stated. “And they all shared three common traits. Smart. Tough. Elite competitor.”
Morgan, who is usually measured together with his reward, sees the chance for Wright to at some point be a part of that prestigious listing. As a rookie, Wright missed solely 5 snaps when he injured his shoulder in opposition to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 7.
“He has shown us everything that we thought he could be and more,” Morgan stated. “He’s going to be everything we thought he could be.”
Sweat price the Bears a second-round decide in a midseason commerce after which $72.9 million in assured cash folded into the four-year, $98 million extension they gave him the identical week. Poles was satisfied Sweat would develop into a “multiplier” for the protection.
“He’s going to allow everyone to play better — our entire defensive front, our corners, our safeties,” Poles stated in Week 9.
He was proper. Sweat emerged as a Pro Bowl performer.
“When you add players like that, all of a sudden you can see everyone had a little bit more swagger to them,” Poles stated final week. “It affected the back end. You saw our interceptions go up. You saw us win more games.”
The manufacturing of the Bears protection spiked considerably after Sweat joined the crew, with the unit taking part in nicely in all phases throughout all three ranges.
The Bears completed with 16 interceptions over their ultimate seven video games. In the primary 27 video games of the Eberflus period, pre-Sweat, the protection had 20 picks. Yes, “The Tez Effect” is actual.
“He creates a pressure player from the front,” Eberflus stated. “When you have that, then you’re able to play coverage and then you can vary your coverages. You can make them look different and disguise them. That’s very hard on the quarterback.”
Sweat is underneath contract by 2027. The dividends from that commerce ought to proceed to multiply.