Courtney CroninESPN staff writer4 minute reading
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Three weeks ago, at the start of OTA practices, Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore called his connection on the field with quarterback Justin Fields “a work in progress.” The Bears’ new No. 1 receiver expected that by the time the players returned to training camp, he and Fields would have mastered the intricacies that make an impactful QB-receiver tandem.
After the best day of practice for Chicago’s offense on the final day of minicamp, it’s clear the quarterback and receiver are on schedule, maybe even ahead of it, when it comes to establishing chemistry.
“It came fast,” Fields said. “I didn’t really expect anything because it’s different for every guy, but I kind of feel like with DJ, his body language is pretty easy to read. Early on we communicated how we wanted each route to run and stuff. Of course, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s been in the league for a good amount of time now. He’s played a lot of football so he knows different coverages really well. That’s one thing that I was kind of impressed with when the offense came in and just understanding , seeing coverages really well on short routes and stuff like that. He’s been great. And you know, the chemistry has really taken off.”
The emphasis of Thursday’s practice was inside the red zone, with coach Matt Eberflus stressing accuracy on Fields’ tight window throws, but the focus all spring for Chicago’s offense has been the deep passing game.
“When teams line up in single-high or they line up in single coverages, we’re going to take our shots,” Eberflus said. “That’s really been the theme all offseason. Definitely take what they give you, but we’re definitely going to take shots with the matchups we like.”
Moore, who finished eighth in receptions of 20 yards or more last season, will be a big part of that. Building chemistry with his new top receiver has been a top priority for Fields, who also boasts deep ball accuracy as a strength. In two seasons as a Heisman Trophy finalist (2019-20) at Ohio State, Fields threw 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions on throws at least 30 yards downfield.
In the NFL, Fields’ completion percentage dropped from 43% as a rookie to 34% in 2022 on passes over 20 yards downfield. Where Fields saw improvement with his deep ball was the touchdown to interception ratio. After going 0-4 in that area as a rookie, Fields threw four touchdown passes of at least 20 yards against three interceptions on such plays this season.
“Just taking shots, just taking chances,” Fields said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s complete or incomplete now, of course. Just trying to get on the same page. Talk, communicate with [Moore] and hopefully we’ll see the same thing when it comes to where the utilization of the corner is and just different details and things like that.”
The Bears had the NFL’s worst passing offense in 2022 at 130.5 yards per carry. battle and has steadily added to the receiving corps. In addition to Moore, Chicago sent a second-round pick to Pittsburgh at last year’s trade deadline for wide receiver Chase Claypool and drafted Cincinnati’s Tyler Scott in the fourth round.
Injuries have kept Claypool and Darnell Mooney, who finished with a team-high 493 receiving yards in 2022, out of most spring practices. Perfecting the same chemistry he’s created with Moore is something that will have to wait for Fields until training camp.
“Chase has been out, what, the last two weeks? So I feel like when Chase practiced with us, we got it down a little bit,” Fields said. “I think he grew tremendously from last year to now. So I think we got a base. With Mooney, I feel like I’m already connected with Mooney, so that’s fine. But it’s just going to be amazing to have those guys back on the field and have them healthy for training camp, instead of having them come out for three or four practices and risk further injury. The biggest thing about it was just the health.”
The timing and confidence shown early by Fields and Moore is something Chicago will lean on to help the offense take the next step in the quarterback’s third season. Even without a full cushion, the spark Moore provides is evident for Bears players on both sides of the ball.
“One and two [Fields and Moore] the connection is going to be crazy this year,” defensive tackle Justin Jones said. “Him and DJ Moore, it’s going to be crazy this year. I will tell you that right now. I like what I see. DJ Moore is a great addition. He’s made some great catches this OTAs. It’s something we haven’t had here in a long time. I’ve only been here a year, so we haven’t had any of that here for a long time. I’m excited. He has someone who can open, who can run every route on the route tree. He can beat man, pressure, any kind of coverage you throw at him, double teams, he runs right by guys and hits them with double moves.”