LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Three weeks ago, at the start of OTA practices, Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore called his on-field connection with quarterback Justin Fields “a work in progress.” The Bears’ new No. 1 receiver anticipated that by the time players returned for training camp, he and Fields will have mastered the intricacies that make an impactful QB-receiver tandem.
Following the best day of practice for Chicago’s offense on the final day of minicamp, it’s evident the quarterback and receiver are on schedule, maybe even ahead of it when it comes to establishing chemistry.
“It did come on quickly,” Fields said. “I didn’t really expect anything because it’s different for each guy, but I feel like with DJ, his body language is pretty easy to read. Early on we communicated on how we want each route ran and stuff like that. Of course, he has a lot of experience. He’s been in the league for a good period 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 about with the offense coming 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 picked up.”
The emphasis for Thursday’s practice was inside the red zone, where coach Matt Eberflus stressed accuracy on Fields’ tight-window throws, but the focus throughout the 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. Certainly take what they give you, but we’re certainly going to take shots with the matchups we like.”
Moore, who tied for eighth on 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 main priority for Fields, who similarly boasts deep ball accuracy as a strength. During 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 down field.
In the NFL, on passes 20-plus yards downfield, Fields’ completion percentage dipped from 43% as a rookie to 34% in 2022. Where Fields did see improvement with his deep ball was on his touchdown-to-interception ratio. After being 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’re seeing the same thing when it comes to where the leverage of the corner is and just different details and stuff like that.”
The Bears had the NFL’s worst passing attack in 2022 at 130.5 yards per game and have 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 held Claypool and Darnell Mooney, who finished with a team-high 493 receiving yards in 2022, out of most spring practices. Perfecting that 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 past two weeks? So, I feel like when Chase was practicing with us, we did get that down a little bit,” Fields said. “I think he grew tremendously from last year until now. So, I think we got a base in. With Mooney, I feel like I’m already connected with Mooney, so that’s fine. But it’s just going to be great having those guys back on the field and having them healthy for training camp, instead of having them come out for three or four practices, risking further injury. The biggest thing with that was just health.”
The timing and trust Fields and Moore have displayed early on is something Chicago will lean on to help the offense take the next step in the quarterback’s third season. Even without being in full pads, the spark Moore provides is apparent to Bears players on both sides of the ball.
“That one and two [Fields and Moore] 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’m going to tell you that right now. I like what I see. DJ Moore is a great addition. He’s made some amazing catches this OTAs. It’s something that we haven’t had here in a long time. I’ve only been here a year, so some of that we haven’t had here in a long time. I’m excited. He has somebody who can get open, who can run every route on the route tree. He can beat man, press, any type of coverage you throw at him, double teams, he’s running right by guys, hitting them with double moves.”