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The performance of the Bears' offense in 2023's preseason has softened a lot of my hope and excitement about the upcoming season. I was hoping for a major turn around, and for the Bears to be playoff contenders in a relatively weak NFC North. But now, I'm not so sure. I doubt we'll see a completely pathetic flop of a season like last year, in which the Bears earned the number 1 overall draft pick. But I now see a winning season as more of a stretch.

Put simply, the Bears' offense showed a lot of explosive promise in its 3 preseason games, but it didn't really show a lot of general competence. Justin Fields went 3 of 3 for 129 yards and 2 TDs in the preseason opener, with TD passes to DJ Moore and Khalil Herbert. But both of those touchdowns (and the vast majority of those yards) came from Moore and Herbert breaking screen passes behind the line, and running halfway across the field for scores. It was all Moore and Herbert; not Fields. All in all, a lot of the rest of the Bears' preseason play showed a lot of the same struggles that we saw last year.

Protection didn't last very long, and Fields had to run on multiple occasions, and also took a few hits. Neither the run game, nor the pass game, looked particularly efficient, and the first team offense saw multiple 3-and-outs. But worst of all, the injury bug has already taken a toll. Both guards, Teven Jenkins and rookie Darnell Wright, missed games with injuries. Jenkins has already shown himself to be injury-prone, and now it looks like Wright might have problems with injuries as well. Both players are being evaluated on a day-by-day or week-to-week basis, so it's possible they will both be ready for the regular season opener in 2 weeks. But even if they are healthy in the opener, how long with that health last?

Dante Pettis, the presumptive punt returner, has also already been placed on injured reserve. So it looks like Velus Jones and/or rookie Tyler Scott will be competing for that job. Jones didn't play much in the preseason due to his own injury, and Scott got plenty of reps at returning punts. He didn't have much of an opportunity to show what he can do in that role, however, since few (if any) of the punts he fielded were returnable. But the important thing is that he held onto the ball. He did have a big kick return in the final preseason game against the Bills, in which a shoe-string trip-up from the kicker was the only thing that kept him out of the endzone. Another sign of potential explosiveness.

DJ Moore TD
Photo credit: Charles REx Arbogast, AP
D.J. Moore and others showed explosive potential in the preseason.

The highlight of the Bears' preseason, however, was probably 3rd-string quarterback and undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent. Bagent excelled with the backup offenses. He was calm and poised, threw accurate passes downfield, and had excellent vision to avoid sacks and scramble for big gains (including multiple TD runs). He was penciled-in as the 3rd or 4th-string quarterback and practice squad candidate behind Nathan Peterman and/or P.J. Walker, but his performance elevated him all the way up to Justin Fields' immediate backup.

Placing Bagent on the practice squad would have been risky for the Bears, since he would be liable to be poached by another team. So instead, the Bears cut both Peterman and Walker, and now Bagent is the only backup quarterback behind Fields. I don't know why the Bears did not decide to keep a third QB now that the NFL allows 3 active QBS (as per the NFL's new rule following the 49ers losing all their QBs in last season's playoffs). Both Fields and Bagent like to run when the pocket breaks down, which happens often, and so they are both liable to injure themselves over the course of the season. Having a 3rd QB seems prudent to me.

Despite his instinctive play, even Bagent had trouble moving the Bears' offense, especially in the 3rd preseason game. He took several sacks, receivers dropped some passes, and the running game was not able to reliably get first downs.

Tyson Bagent
Photo credit: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP
Tyson Bagent was impressive in preseason, and has been promoted straight up to Fields' backup.

Nevertheless, if Fields gets hurt, or proves to be a bust, Bagent looks like he will be a more-than-serviceable backup. He could be very exciting to watch with the first-stringers, and I'm kind of disappointed we didn't get a chance to see what he could do with D.J. Moore on the receiving end of his throws.

All-in-all, most of the Bears' off-season acquisitions and draft picks appear to have proven themselves, and I feel most of Ryan Pace's personnel decisions have been vindicated. D.J. Moore definitely showed he has the potential to elevate this offense to dangerous levels. Herbert and rookie Roschon Johnson look like they will be able to pick up the load left behind by David Montgomery's trade to the Lions.

The big questions are: will the offensive line stay healthy and keep the quarterbacks off the dirt? And will Justin Fields be able to make good decisions and accurate throws to all his new weapons? If the answers to those 2 questions ends up being "no", then defenses will once again be able to key completely on the run and shut down both Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson. In that case, we'll have another year of Justin Fields constantly running for his life and potentially ending up being the Bears' leading rusher.

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