DJ Moore offers glimpse of his impact in preseason opener
One catch, 62 yards, and one electrifying touchdown. That was DJ Moore's stat line after the first drive of his first preseason game as a Chicago Bear. It may have only been a quick bubble screen, but he effortlessly sliced through the Titans' defense (or lack thereof) and raced to the end zone. The coaching staff had seen enough. While the rest of the offensive starters returned for one more drive (probably because they expected to have to do a bit more work on their first go at it), he was allowed to rest.
Fans had extremely high expectations for the 26-year-old as soon as Chicago acquired him (and a boatload of added draft capital) in a trade-down with Carolina for the number one pick. It only took him three snaps to make the Bears brass look like geniuses for doing so. While he will have to make a similar impact when the games start to count, that shouldn't be an issue for Moore, as that is exactly what he has done throughout his entire career.
Moore's 5201 receiving yards before the age of 26 ranks fifth all-time. What's even more impressive is that he achieved the feat while catching passes from a who's who of underwhelming signal-callers. Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, and P.J. Walker are just a few of the all-star quarterbacks slinging Moore the rock in recent years. Underwhelming, to say the least. While Fields has not yet done enough to be considered elite, he has more talent in his non-dominant pinky finger than any of the passers mentioned above, and his shiny new number-one receiver could be just what he needs to achieve that status.
While each team takes a different approach to team building, adding an elite weapon at receiver has proven to be the best way to aid a young quarterback's development. There were questions about whether Josh Allen would be the guy in Buffalo before Stefon Diggs, whom the team traded for in the 2020 offseason, helped him become one of the league's elite quarterbacks. The Eagles followed a similar approach last offseason, and it yielded even better results. The addition of AJ Brown was not only crucial to Jalen Hurts' development, but it also helped Philly reach the Super Bowl. Likewise, in Miami, Tua Tagovailoa also went from an uninspiring mid-level game manager to one of the league's most efficient passers after the Dolphins acquired Tyreek Hill.
Despite his success, Moore has routinely been disrespected by the NFL media this offseason. His talent has not necessarily gotten questioned, but his ability to impact the Bears' passing game the same way the players mentioned above has been. While he will surely move the bar, many believe he will not be able to launch Chicago's passing attack, as their ability to move the ball through the air has seemingly been doomed since the team's inception.
The Bears are the only franchise without a 4000-yard passer. While this says a lot about the team's quarterback situation throughout their history, it also says a lot about their lack of playmakers at the receiver position. Their franchise leader in receiving yards is Johnny Morris, whose career spanned from 1958 to 1967, just barely entering the Super Bowl era. Unsurprisingly, he had a measly 5,059 yards, 142 yards less than Moore has through five seasons. While Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery lit up the skies a decade ago, their time as one of the league's premier receiver duos was brief, as they each only put up two 1000-yard seasons in the Windy City. Moore has shown no signs of slowing down and it is not hyperbole to say he could become one of the most prolific receivers in franchise history.
The league has evolved to better utilize players like Moore, who has an innate ability to make defenders miss with the balls in his hands, and put them in positions to succeed. The pass-catcher can line up all over the field and beat defenses in the short (as he showed in the preseason opener), intermediate, and deep games. In a pinch, he has also averaged 8.6 yards per carry during his career and can even succeed in a hybrid role out of the backfield. In short, he is the perfect example of a weapon in the modern-day NFL.
Adding Moore to the receiver room will help open things up for the pass-catchers behind him in the pecking order. Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney will benefit from defenses having to command more attention to Chicago's new top receiver, allowing them more room to operate in one-on-one coverage. The latter showed just how effective he could be as the second option in a passing game when he put up 1,055 yards opposite Allen Robinson in 2021.
The Bears' front office has done a masterful job of surrounding Justin Fields with talent, and they suddenly boast one of the league's most well-rounded groups of pass-catchers. Moore has a chance to not only help the team's passing game join the 21st century; He can also help it reach the stratosphere.