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Setting Bears Goals for Year 2 of Rebuild

By Gene Chamberlain,


Setting goals for the second year of this Bears rebuild as they move toward wins over foundation building.

Planning anything first takes setting goals.

Winning more is a broad goal for the Bears in 2023 and probably attainable, although with limitations.

Usually putting a puzzle together takes time and the Bears are bringing in so many new pieces now they might find it difficult to get the entire team together and functioning right before midseason in 2023.

They might have as many as six new starters on defense and five new starters on offense when they line up next year.

The Bears see Year 2 less about foundation building and more about winning, according to GM Ryan Poles.

"I know my expectation, our expectation, is that we move the needle to be more successful," Poles said.

In mapping out Year 2, here's where they need to start with their broader goals.

1. Balancing the Offense

The 2022 Bears achieved the worst record in pro football history for any team that led its league in rushing, according to

It wasn't the fewest wins for any team that led in rushing because the Staten Island Stapletons of 1932 only had two wins and led the NFL in rushing. Then again, the Stapes only played 12 games that year and had a better winning percentage at .222 than the 2022 Bears (.176).

At least the Bears won't have the same fate in 2023 that the 1932 Stapes had after they led in rushing but stunk -- or at least they shouldn't. The Stapes folded up operations in 1933.

Even with a quarterback who runs as well as Justin Fields, a team can't survive in the NFL on rushing alone and the Bears realize this.

"I think that to be sustainably good, you have to have more balance," offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. "That's real. We know that.

"But we look at each individual on our team, and we say, 'what's the best way for us to win a game?' We're going to take that approach every single week as long as I'm here."

When your best receiver goes out in Week 12 for the year with an ankle injury and no one else besides the tight end has stepped up to be counted as capable of regularly making four or more catches in a game, then your best approach every single week is going to be on the ground.

The goal for this offseason has to be making sure the targets are plentiful and the quarterback is on the same page with all of them.

It also needs to be finding two more linemen with the capability of pass blocking as well as they run block because some of those league-high 58 sacks allowed weren't entirely Justin Fields' fault for holding the ball too long.

The Philadelphia Eagles led the NFL in rushing in 2021 with Jalen Hurts as QB. They balanced out the attack and went from 25th in passing to ninth in 2022, while dropping down from first in rushing to fifth. This is the kind of balancing act the Bears need to achieve through upcoming personnel acquisitions.

2. Gap Attack

The Bears defensive line needs to improve at all costs because offenses had too many ways to beat their defense last season and most had poor line play as the root cause.

Their secondary was fine through Week 11 and third in the league through Week 7 even without a very good pass rush as support. They were still a top-10 team against the pass going into Week 12. Then all of their starting defensive backs got hurt, as well as some of their backups, and it rapidly deteriorated.

You can't have 6 1/2 sacks from all the defensive ends and 10 1/2 from every defensive lineman on the team for a full 17 games and expect pass coverage to hold up forever.

While all of this went on, they performed terribly against the run whether Roquan Smith was still there or not. The Bears ranked between 27th and last against the run through every week after their season-opening win over San Francisco. They finished 31st and don't play the single-gap scheme up front well enough to disrupt offenses.

It's a close tossup with their unbalanced attack whether this ranks as their biggest issue. It's 1A and 1B rather than 1-2.

3. Finishing Games

Much was made of the Bears getting into position to win or tie games during the season but losing each time. This is going to take some doing bacause they're really not even experienced at last-minute drives to the end zone or the winning field goal. Fields hasn't been in that situation.

The truth is, they weren't really that close to winning those games when they lost seven times by a touchdown and conversion or less.

The only time the Bears ever got to a last-second situation among those losses was the devastating loss to Washington at Soldier Field when Darnell Mooney juggled the final pass inside the end zone and regained possession outside the end zone in a 12-7 defeat.

They didn't get closer than the 39 against Minnesota when former Bears receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette had the ball stolen by Cameron Dantzler. Velus Jones Jr. muffed their last chance away on a punt in their loss at New Jersey to the Giants. Equanimeous St. Brown failed to come away with a perfect Fields pass on the run on fourth down at midfield to end the loss to Miami. Fields was sacked on fourth down inside his own 25 against Detroit in a 31-30 loss and threw an interception against Atlanta from his own 30 to end the 27-24 loss.

The only other game they could say they were close in was the 25-20 loss to Philadelphia at home but they were down 25-13 and scored late.

"So some of those tight games I want to finish," Poles said. "I want to finish better. And bringing in some playmakers. More playmakers is going to allow us to do that, so the expectation is to take that next step."

It's going to be a big step, maybe the biggest.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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