The Chicago Bears open the 2023 season against the division rival Green Bay Packers, who are kicking off the new Jordan Love era. The last time the Bears beat the Packers was in December of 2018, long before Justin Fields joined the organization, but the new-look roster's first outing will be an opportunity to reset the NFC North hierarchy for years to come.
However, a victory will not come easily against a Packers team, who, despite losing their Hall of Fame quarterback, has quite a bit of talent. The Chicago Bears will have to play a good game, and here, we will specifically be looking at four key goals the team needs to accomplish in order to start the season 1-0.
The Chicago Bears Need to Establish the Run, and the Passing Game Will Follow
Last season, the Chicago Bears offense accumulated more rushing yards than any other team in the NFL, and in the 15 games that Justin Fields played in, the unit averaged roughly 185 yards on the ground. Over the offseason, the Bears lost David Montgomery, who accounted for a little over 25% of the team's total rushing offense. However, the team has replaced the veteran with a committee of backs that all showcase a different set of skills.
Khalil Herbert, the only returning running back from a season prior, is perhaps the most dangerous player in the backfield with the ball in his hands (outside of Fields, of course) and should get a lot of work in both the outside running game and screen/quick pass game. 4th round rookie Roschon Johnson, who is now wearing the number 23 after donning 30 during the pre-season, is a physical back who is going to create a lot of missed tackles in the middle of the field, but he will have to try to steal carries from the 6'1" 235 lb D'Onta Foreman, who served as a terrific short yardage back last year with the Carolina Panthers. And do not forget about Travis Homer, the former Seattle Seahawk who came to the Bears this year in free agency. Homer will likely play mainly on third downs, serving as a pass protector for Fields and an extra option as a receiver out of the backfield.
Alongside Justin Fields, these four players will combine for a number of opportunities to tote the rock against the Packers, and as important as their carries are, they are part of a much bigger picture. Establishing the run early in the game will allow the offense to play more freely, and open the field up to different looks. Specifically, excelling with the run game early will complement the play-action and bootleg passing games, where Fields seems to be at his best.
Last season, the former Ohio State quarterback averaged just seven yards per attempt as a passer, but when utilizing play-action schemes, this figure jumped up to over nine yards per attempt. It might not seem like much, but over the course of five attempts, that average would net the Bears offense an extra first-down. Plus, while the offensive line has improved since last season, utilizing play action will help the front protect Fields, as the Packers' defensive line will have no choice but to slow down in order to read if it is a run or a pass. Fake handoffs can also get linebackers and safeties to jump out of their coverage responsibilities, potentially opening up easier passing lines for Fields to find his targets.