Bears’ DJ Moore shows what he can mean for Justin Fields in preseason opener


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CHICAGO — It seemed too fitting. For all the talk about wide receiver DJ Moore and what he can mean for Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears’ offense, there was no better way to show it off.

“The stars aligned for us,” Moore said.

“First two drives, can’t really draw it up much better than that,” Fields said.

On the third play of the preseason opener for the offense, Fields threw a screen to Moore. It was a little off target, but Moore made the catch, turned and, with help from big-time blocks, went 62 yards for a touchdown, electrifying Soldier Field.

“As soon as I made a little stutter move, and then I just seen it open,” Moore said. “It was on me to go finish it.”

Wide receiver Darnell Mooney sealed off his man. Left tackle Braxton Jones made his block. Left guard Teven Jenkins and right guard Ja’Tyre Carter were downfield creating the lane for Moore to run.

“We’ve been working really hard on those screens,” head coach Matt Eberflus said after the Bears’ 23-17 win over the Tennessee Titans. “… I saw Braxton block the edge there and I saw Mooney seal it. It was a really good play by those three, and then you saw the speed of DJ.”

On the next possession, the Titans brought pressure on third down. Fields didn’t panic and stuck with the original play — another screen, this one to running back Khalil Herbert.

Fields escaped the pressure and got it to Herbert, who had green grass in front of him, along with his guards. Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown helped block down the field as well.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a first preseason game,” Eberflus said about the back-to-back explosive touchdowns. “It’s a credit to the offense.”

While Fields had a somewhat misleading stat line — 3-of-3 passing for 129 yards and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 — and it’s only the preseason, the Bears hope it’s a symbol of what’s to come. They upgraded their receiver room with the hope that they can make things easier for Fields and create more plays like those.

“When you have guys that can take a 3-yard pass 50 yards, that just makes my job easier,” Fields said. “It’s always good to have playmakers like that on the team.”

Punt return adventures

Velus Jones Jr. entered training camp with a lot of confidence. He spent extra time this summer catching punts. He hadn’t dropped one at camp. He was earning trust of the coaches.

Then came the first punt of the preseason, which bounced. He caught it off the hop and returned it. That was fine.

What happened on his next rep wasn’t, when he let the ball bounce, and with the Titans coverage teams descending on him, he tried to catch it and run. Instead, he fumbled.

“It comes down to fundamentals. It comes down to technique,” Eberflus said. “We’re going to work on that. Reading the flight of the ball, getting ourselves in position early, and then getting underneath the football and squeezing the ball down on the catch.”

Titans punter Ryan Stonehouse was second-team All-Pro as a rookie in 2022 and led the league in punting average. Eberflus pointed that out because of Stonehouse’s leg, and with how far back Jones was situated, he had to run up more than usual.

“The nose was up, so they came down pretty fast,” Eberflus said. “He got two of the more difficult ones back to back. … Just have to use fundamentals, technique and read the ball before it gets too high and then get underneath it.”

Last season, Jones fumbled two fourth-quarter punts that ultimately cost him his job. He came on strong in December on kickoff returns. He’s certainly not guaranteed a roster spot, especially if he can’t be counted on to protect the football. It was a setback for Jones, who otherwise has been practicing well.

Rookie review

Eberflus smiled as he listened to the question about the Bears’ second-round pick, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, who led the team with seven tackles. He also had a tackle for loss and nearly picked off a pass.

The physicality was on display.

“I knew that was coming,” Eberflus said. “The reason he’s here is because of that, because of his length and because he’s physical. You saw that today. He made a lot of good tackles, crack-replace tackle, open-field space tackle. … He’s been wired in the whole time. It’s good to see him.”

Here’s a quick glimpse of how the rest of the Bears’ draft picks, and their undrafted quarterback, fared in their NFL debuts:

• RT Darnell Wright: He had a nice block on Herbert’s 12-yard run.

• DT Gervon Dexter: Dexter finished with two tackles after playing into the third quarter. He left the field briefly with an injury but later returned.

• DT Zacch Pickens: It was a productive opener for Pickens, who had a sack and a fumble recovery. Said Eberflus: “He’s focusing on the first task at hand, and that’s get-off. I think he’s doing that. And that’s when he’s at his best. When he beats him to the punch and gets off on the football, starts his day on the other side of the line of scrimmage, then good things happen because then they’re off-balance. He can use his hands, use his long arms. He’s learning to do that and you saw that with that sack he had.”

• RB Roschon Johnson: We had been waiting to see Johnson’s ability to go in between the tackles, and he had a physical, punishing 24-yard run to start the second half.

• WR Tyler Scott: Scott had a 9-yard reception, but fumbled it back to the Titans. He also had a 13-yard kickoff return.

• LB Noah Sewell: Sewell went in at linebacker for the second drive and finished with four tackles and a sack.

• DT Travis Bell: The Kennesaw State product shared a sack with undrafted rookie defensive end Jalen Harris. He also had a run stop for 1 yard.

• QB Tyson Bagent: Bagent completed 4 of 5 passes for 37 yards, most notably a 25-yarder on fourth-and-7 to set up a Cairo Santos field goal.

On the sideline

The players who have missed time recently for injuries all sat out the preseason opener. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, wide receiver Chase Claypool, guards Lucas Patrick and Nate Davis, safety Jaquan Brisker, linebacker Dylan Cole, and cornerbacks Terell Smith and Josh Blackwell.

Recent additions Yannick Ngakoue and Marcedes Lewis did not play, as they’re still likely getting into game shape. Guard Logan Stenberg, who was claimed off waivers Friday, did not play. Wide receiver Dante Pettis, who has practiced only once after being activated off the non-football injury list, also sat out.

Running back Trestan Ebner and offensive tackle Aviante Collins left the game with injuries.

With joint practices coming up this week against the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears would probably love to have a few of these starters back in the lineup.

“All those guys that we talked about are day by day right now,” Eberflus said.

(Photo: Jamie Sabau / USA Today)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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