General manager Ryan Poles spoke with Jeff Joniak Sunday on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a transcript of Poles' comments:
We've arrived at the final stages of at times, a difficult season, Ryan, but also one filled with some terrific individual accomplishments that bode well for the future. Is this how you see this franchise right now as it opens 2023? There's some symbolism with it being New Year's Day here and 2023 being so important.
Yeah, I see it that way. Guys have stepped up and produced on individual levels and in flashes. As we move into this new year, to me it's consistency and it's elevating from how we played in the past. I'd love to see us finish games better, continue to make more plays and do it consistently so we can start winning football games.
Back in Week 10 we were just getting a feel for the aftermath of Justin Fields becoming a national story because of his explosive runs and we've come to expect that from QB1. How would you like to see him finish?
I think just elevate his game in the passing game, the two-minute drills, end of half. Obviously to start games, he's been outstanding. He's shown ability to make a ton of plays with his legs, no one questions his playmaking ability, but really growing as a passer is going to be the next step. And we can accomplish that now and obviously into the future as we continue to grow.
I had a conversation this week with Chase Claypool. It's difficult to not feel his enthusiasm for '23 and beyond. He can't wait to work with Justin in the offseason, he has his sights and goals set high. How do you feel about his ambition right now and his approach?
I love his ambition. He's an aggressive kid. He plays the game the right way and I love his mentality just in terms of he wants to be the best. I'm really looking for him and a lot of the guys working with Justin not only now, but in the offseason to create that chemistry, so again we can elevate off this foundation that we've built this year.
There's plenty of good stories on this team in 2022, for sure. One of them, I would pick the entire secondary, honestly. One of the best stories of the season, given the fact that right now there's five rookies on there and they're feeling their oats a little bit, not too big. Would you agree with that assessment?
Yeah I would agree with that. I feel like every game that group gets more and more confident. From seeing Kyler Gordon, how he started the season, to where he is now, just how he sees the game, I think it's slowing down for him. And then there's been some really cool things like Jaylon Jones has had some opportunities, Josh Blackwell's had opportunities and I've thought they've stepped up to the challenge and done a nice job. I'm really excited to see them grow, and especially Blackwell, I've really been impressed with him and the time that he's put into it before he even got on the field, I know that's gotta be really rewarding for him.
And your special teams leading tackler as well. How do you picture his growth for the future, or still yet to be determined?
Yet to be determined. I think the more reps he gets, the more clear that picture will become. But I know he can play in this league; he knows he can play in this league. So it's been really cool to see a guy really take advantage of his reps on special teams, make a bunch of those tackles, play fast and then get a chance to play on defense – and then just playing fast and also with confidence. I think the really cool thing about his game is at the catch point, his ability to turn and locate the ball. That shows confidence and trust that he feels good about his positioning, so I'm excited to see him grow.
The defense has gone through a lot this season. The front seven will need attention. Winning the line of scrimmage, as we all know, is critical. Is this going to be a big focal point?
Yeah, I think in order to win in this league and sustain it for a long time, your front's gotta be really good. So obviously we're all disappointed with the production up front. I know those guys are working really hard and putting the time in, but that's a place we gotta continue to improve.
Your team enters into a playoff atmosphere today at Ford Field. The Lions have flickering hopes, obviously, but a couple weeks ago that place was rocking. They want to sell standing room only tickets for this game, so they really want a taste of playoff atmosphere, which in turn your guys are going to get. How valuable is that?
Yeah, it's really important. First and foremost, it's a division opponent so we take that really serious. We want our guys to elevate their game and perform really well. This is a team we need to beat not only now, but in the future. So I'm excited to see our guys do that. But also in big games, big moments, big lights, can guys make plays? And I think our guys will do that, but at the end of the day we'll find out here today.