LAKE FOREST – Justin Fields' growth in Year 2 should be the Bears' primary focus this season. If the second-year signal-caller takes a leap and continues to show star potential, Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus' rebuild could be ahead of schedule.
But if Fields stagnates or takes a step back, many will start to question if the Ohio State product is indeed the franchise quarterback the Bears have been searching for.
For Fields to have the best chance to succeed, the Bears must surround him with the requisite weapons and protection to thrive. That has been a point of anxiety among fans this offseason after the Bears drafted just one wide receiver (Velus Jones Jr.), and made Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown their key free-agent additions to the receiving corps.
That thin wide receiver corps has many concerned that Fields will regress this season without a legitimate arsenal of weapons.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy understands the desire for a Davante Adams-type receiver, but he is confident that guys like St. Brown and Pringle can blossom with bigger roles.
"Everybody wants Davante Adams," Getsy told local media Sunday at Bears rookie minicamp. "Who wouldn't want Davante Adams, right? That's part of it. But Davante wasn't Davante until he became Davante. I think the system will enable some of these guys to play at their potential. And so, we'll see what we can do. We'll give them an opportunity to show them what they got."
It's clear early on that the Bears will ask more of their tight ends and running backs in the passing game to account for a thin receiving corps.
Cole Kmet figures to play a big part in Getsy's offense, and the offensive coordinator is excited about what the third-year tight end can bring to Chicago's attack.
"I've been very impressed with Cole," Getsy said. "Again, that mindset that we're trying to set, he's been a great example of that as well. And you go back to that thing we talked about before, just the ability, the flexibility as a player. I think he has all that stuff. So, I'm excited to see him have a bunch of different roles in our offense.
"Some players that are out there they're kind of like this is what they do well. But I think the more guys that you can get in a system that can do a bunch of different things, the more success you're going to have, and I think Cole is one of those guys."
Getsy was effusive in his praise of Fields on Sunday, noting the young quarterback is "ahead of pace" in learning the offense and "cares more" than anyone in the building about getting things right.
Fields being the hardest worker in the facility is a critical first piece in Getsy's quest to craft a dynamic offense built around his QB's strengths.
Still, a quarterback-friendly system can only take you so far. Eventually, you need playmakers who the quarterback can rely on in critical moments. Fields has great chemistry with Mooney, and it's fair to expect a big season out of the Bears' No. 1 receiver.
But Getsy also is high on St. Brown's potential after working with the receiver in Green Bay.
"I was really excited that we were able to snag him up because I think all his best football is ahead of him," Getsy said. "So, I'm excited to see, he's one of those guys again, you know, you talk about a big body, a guy that can run, his toughness and all that stuff and everything that we're going to preach in this system. He's that expectation. He's that leader of that mindset."
If Kmet, St. Brown, and Jones Jr. can be reliable weapons for Fields, the Bears' passing attack could be better than anticipated.
The Bears are banking on more opportunities leading to more production from receivers who have only played supporting roles early in their career.
They need to be right. Fields' Year 2 growth depends on him finding a reliable connection with someone other than Mooney.