The Chicago Bears own two picks in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft, and insider Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog says the team has a deliberate plan for them.
When a fan asked insider Hughes on the social media platform X whether he has heard about the team potentially being interested in Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones, a move that would likely involve trading one of those first-round selections away, Hughes replied that Chicago’s two first-round picks in 2024 were currently being used as “insurance” in case starting quarterback Justin Fields doesn’t prove to be The Guy.
The Bears spent multiple first rounders on Fields in the 2021 draft, and after two seasons of flashes coupled with inconsistent play, Hughes says it’s up to Fields to decide how Chicago’s 2024 draft will go: “Fields can change that very soon,” he added.
Bears GM Ryan Poles Feels ‘Better’ About Group Surrounding Fields This Year
As a group, Bears quarterbacks were sacked 58 times last year, which was the fourth-worst mark in the league. A good number of those were on Fields for holding onto the ball too long. Fields was sacked 55 times, which was tied with Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson for most in the NFL. In fact, his 14.7% sack rate last season was the highest in NFL history, per analytics guru Warren Sharp.
Now entering Year 3, it will be paramount for the young signal-caller to be smarter in the pocket. The Bears have since drafted lineman Darnell Wright out of Tennessee with the 10th overall pick while also adding veteran Nate Davis in free agency.
When speaking to the media on August 30, Bears general manager Ryan Poles was asked how he feels about the evolution of Fields and the offensive line this year considering all the sacks Fields took in 2023.
“I feel better about it,” Poles said. “Obviously we need to see that (sack) number change. … I feel better about our setup in terms of the guys in front of him, and the tackles, with Braxton (Jones) going into Year 2. Darnell’s doing a good job. That alone should help us. And then Justin’s ability to execute our offense more efficiently and get the ball out quicker too. All of that should run together and that number should drop.”
And if it doesn’t? Poles has those two 2024 first-rounders in his pocket.
Poles: We Want to See Fields Take Next Step
Fields finished his 2022 campaign with 2,242 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games (85.2 rating). He also rushed for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the league’s best running QBs. He had three games last year in which he ran for more than 130 yards, but now, he’ll need to make things happen with his arm.
Poles was also asked what he wanted to see out of his third-year QB, and his answer was simple. “Just to continue to improve. Want those sack numbers to come down, interceptions to come down, make good reads, protect himself, just see him take that next step.”
The Bears also added a No. 1 wide receiver for Fields in DJ Moore, and Poles is expecting to see more big plays on offense as a result. “I feel like our defense in terms of takeaways is going to be in a better situation,” Poles noted, adding: “I feel like explosive plays and run after the catch on offense is going to be better.” Moore should certainly help with that.
With the team’s top rival in the Green Bay Packers waiting Week 1, we’ll know soon enough if he’s correct.
Beth Mishler-Elmore is a Heavy sports contributor based in the Midwest. She covers the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Heat for Heavy. She also covers the Bears for Bear Report, a CBS Sports affiliate. More about Beth Mishler-Elmore