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Bears 2023 position preview: Receiver

Bears receiver DJ Moore
Bears receiver DJ Moore

The following is the third of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

The Bears gave their offense a major boost in March with the acquisition of star receiver DJ Moore via a blockbuster trade with the Panthers.

Selected by Carolina with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2018 draft out of Maryland, Moore appeared in 80 games over five seasons with the Panthers, catching 364 passes for 5,201 yards and 21 touchdowns.

In offseason practices, the 6-foot, 210-pounder demonstrated the speed, hands and playmaking ability that enabled him to produce three straight 1,100-yard seasons in Carolina from 2019-21. 

"It's pretty rare when you've got a guy that can run the route, have the route discipline that he has, the [football intelligence] that he has, and then also that speed and talent that he has," said coach Matt Eberflus. 

Last season Moore had 63 receptions for 888 yards and seven TDs for a Panthers offense that had three quarterbacks all start at least five games.

"That speaks volumes for him to adjust to whoever is in the game," said receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. "He just continues to be a pro, go out and do his job. It's a credit to him to go out there and make those plays, continue to get open, continue to get in position to be open and make plays when the ball is thrown to him."


Step into Bears territory

Moore developed a rapport with quarterback Justin Fields in offseason practices that no doubt will only grow during training camp.

"I can tell he loves the game, he's a hard worker, and of course he's talented," Fields said. "He's proven that over the past few years playing with the Panthers. It's great to have him; another weapon to add to our offense. He's going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of leadership to the room. Everybody's excited to have him."

Everybody's also excited about the expected return in training camp of receivers Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool. Mooney has been sidelined since sustaining a season-ending injury last Nov. 27 against the Jets, while Claypool sat out the final weeks of the offseason program due to an undisclosed injury. 

"Training camp will be big," Eberflus said. "It'll be big for everybody. It'll be big for Mooney. It'll be big for 'Clay,' getting the timing and the rhythm down. Those guys will pick it up. Those guys are both smart. Claypool's been in the system now for a while and he's getting in the motions and shifts and the route disciplines and all that, so we're excited about where that is."

After trading for Claypool last October and Moore in March, the Bears have more experience at receiver than they did heading into last year's training camp.

"We have a more established group … based on the guys we have and the guys we acquired," Tolbert said. "It helps a little bit more to be able to say, 'OK, we kind of know what these guys are.' We don't have to search to see who can do what now. We kind of know what they can do and put them in position to make plays, so it's easier that way, for sure."

Moore isn't the Bears' only new receiver. They also selected speedster Tyler Scott in the fourth round of the draft out of Cincinnati. 

The 5-11, 185-pounder appeared in 30 games in three seasons with the Bearcats, catching 87 passes for 1,439 yards and 14 touchdowns. Last year Scott was named second-team American Athletic Conference after establishing career highs in all receiving categories with 54 receptions, 899 yards and nine TDs.

Timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, Scott caught TD passes of 81 and 53 yards in 2021 and 41, 75, 61 and 76 yards in 2022.

With the additions of Moore and Scott, Sam Robinson of Yardbarker ranked Bears receivers as the 15th most improved position group in the NFL. 

Chicago's receiving corps also features returnees Velus Jones Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis. 

Jones demonstrated resiliency last year as a rookie, rebounding from two muffed punts early in the season to show his versatility and big-play ability. The third-round pick from Tennessee had a 44-yard reception and a 40-yard kickoff return in a Week 16 game against the Bills. In the season finale versus the Vikings, Jones became the first Bears player since Walter Payton with a run, reception and kickoff return of at least 25 yards in a game.

St. Brown started all 16 contests he played last season, catching 21 passes for 323 yards and one TD. The 6-5, 214-pounder signed with the Bears last year after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Packers.

Pettis appeared in all 17 games with seven starts, catching 19 passes for 245 yards and three TDs and averaging 9.1 yards on 18 punt returns.

Also competing for receiving positions in training camp will be veterans Nsimba Webster, Daurice Fountain and Joe Reed; and undrafted rookies Aron Cruickshank and Thyrick Pitts.