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High Anticipation for Bears Offense

Justin Fields' second year, the new play calling of Luke Getsy, a running game with three new backs behind David Montgomery and jumbled scenes at receiver and the offensive line key the rebuilt Bears offense starting 2022.

When the Bears finished preseason, even statistics from fake games meant something.

That's because no one had anything else to go by, nothing else with which to track this 2022 rebuilt offense under coordinator Luke Getsy.

It wasn't a bad start.

"I think preseason Game 1 I was pleased with the process and the play-calling into the huddle and the snap to the line of scrimmage and the motions and the lack of penalties, that carried over to Preseason 2 and I think it got even better in Preseason 3,"Getsy said. "So I think that part of it, we were all pleased with.

"But there's a ton of improvement that we have to get better at if we're gonna play (against) better talent, play more looks—all the movement you're gonna get. But a step in the right direction."

It was probably more than a step considering where they'd come from, and wide receiver Darnell Mooney expects to see more from this attack.

"If you look back we didn't really run many plays," Mooney said of preseason. "We've run some of the same plays every down. Just a lot of play-action and then maybe one or two shots down the field. But we're really running the same plays. Nothing really crazy. Just our basic, simple plays.

"So we've got a lot of things cooking."

If it sounds like so much braggadocious, the Bears probably don't mind a little considering the hole their offense operated within over the last three years.

"I know our playbook, so I know what we have in there–a lot of nice and crazy plays," Mooney said. "But during the game, I'm like, 'Yeah, we're not even running anything really. Really just rolling.' But, yeah, it's gonna get dangerous for sure."

They finished 13th in preseason rushing (110.7 yards a game) and ninth in scoring (22.3) but 23rd in passing (187 yards). However, the passing game was efficient with a 105.4 passer rating, the fifth-best among all teams. And  Fields' 133.1 passer rating was behind only Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota and Patrick Mahomes among starters. Fields threw the ball more times than any of those passers (30 times).

"I think, of course, I have a different mindset coming in this year," Fields said.

Considering he has been starter from Day 1, it's understandable after last year's QB shuffle.

"I'm way more comfortable, just being in the NFL this year, and of course having played a year," Fields said.  

It's an offense with two new starting wide receivers in their three-receiver set and new starters at two or three different offensive line positions, depending on whether they settle on Lucas Patrick starting the opener at center or Sam Mustipher.

More than the personnel, the plan of attack seems much improved, with wide zone run blocking, Fields moving around more than in the past, and receivers versatile enough to play every position.

"That's a glimpse of our identity of how we want to play," Mooney said about  the offense after preseason. "Just let Justin do his thing and have him comfortable wherever he wants to be and we just get in the right spot."

If only it were so simple. Here's how it looks position by position.

Coordinator: Getsy.

The players have barely seen his play-calling abilities but have seen how he communicates and handles his personnel.

"He makes you want to run through a wall for him, really," running back David Montgomery said. "He definitely brings the juice. He brings a lot of juice."

When was the last time the Bears were so geared up about an offensive coordinator? Never, would probably be the accurate answer.

Quarterbacks (2): Fields, Trevor Siemian

Fields' progress in Year 2 but Year 1 of the offense is the key to everything. He hasn't disappointed, but it could be different with first-team defensive players going against his pieced-together offensive line. The pressure will be greater on Fields, particularly early and in the first two games against San Francisco and Green Bay. He ran for twice as many yards in his last five starts in 2021 as in his first five, and will need the mobility against two dominant defenses before they get into games with the Houston Texans and New York Giants.

Running Backs (4): Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, Khari Blasingame (FB).

They have two backup backs who are capable but it will not be a surprise to see Getsy lean heavily on Montgomery because of his running, receiving and also largely because of his abilities as a pass blocker. Ebner's abilities in the passing game appear more advanced than Herbert's, even though he is a rookie. But Herbert holds down second back position based on his rushing ability.

Tight ends (4): Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin, Trevon Wesco, Jake Tonges (TE/FB).

Kmet has looked like a player capable of breaking out in Year 3 during preseason and in practices, and Griffin is a multipurpose 32-year-old who can benefit in the red zone or the two-tight end set. Wesco is an unknown quantity as he came in after roster cuts, but his role with the Jets before being cut was largely as a blocking tight end and that was his role in college at West Virginia as well. Tonges is listed at fullback but plays both tight end and fullback, and is a sort of H-back.

Wide Receivers (6): Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones Jr., Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis, Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

For the moment, N'Keal Harry is on injured reserve with a designation to return. Mooney's all-around skills and close connection with Fields makes his bid for another 1,000-yard season a possibility even in an attack where balance is important. St. Brown has begun making better connections with Fields and can play all the receiver spots. He's been particularly effective coming out of the slot and over the middle, then out toward the sidelines. Fields seems to find his 6-foot-5 height an easy mark. Jones barely seemed to work his way into the offense because of injury in preseason, and showed more as a return man in camp and preseason than as a receiver. Look for him in plenty of wide receiver screens or short routes designed to set him free as a runner. Pringle has shown nothing so far because of a quad injury early in August, but is expected back for the opener. Smith-Marsette just arrived after being cut by the Vikings so he'll need to learn the offense before contributing. He is a speed threat and return man. The Bears will be shorthanded overall at the position for now. Veteran journeyman Pettis has been a godsend as a route runner who was needed due to injuries. He also returns punts.

"Man, I love Dante," Mooney said. "I got his targets and everything in my iPad. I watch them often. I get with him on releases after practice and everything. He's just a smooth guy, runs routes amazing."

Offensive Line (9): Cody Whitehair, LG; Lucas Patrick, C; Teven Jenkins, RG; Braxton Jones LT; Larry Borom, RT; Riley Reiff, T; Alex Leatherwood, T; Ja'Tyre Carter, G; Sam Mustipher, G/C;

So much depends on totally inexperienced players. Jenkins had a couple starts last year but they were at tackle and now he's playing a position he hadn't played since his freshman year in college. Jones is a Day 3 rookie who is the first starter at left tackle as a rookie draft pick of the Bears since 1992 (Troy Auzenne). Borom has just eight games starting experience. Even Patrick is a relative newcomer to starting center, as he just began doing it last year. He had started 21 games in four years going into last year and they were at guard. Then he became a center. Reiff provides experienced backup help at either tackle, while Leatherwood is the waiver wire pickup from the Raiders who was a first-round pick but starts out as a backup tackle after playing guard the last 12 games last season. Carter impressed in camp and preseason and Mustipher has been a solid 2021 starting center who was moved to guard but stepped back in at center after injuries to Patrick and rookie Doug Kramer. The inexperience makes pass blocking an adventure, if not the run blocking. 

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