As the Chicago Bears closed out their preseason slate with a 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, General Manager Ryan Poles stepped into the broadcast booth to share some of his thoughts on the biggest storylines surrounding the team.
First, he addressed what was an active offseason for the team.
“Real exciting process,” Poles said. “Really get to try to move the needle with the roster. Getting more playmakers on this team so that we can continue to progress and win more football games.”
Ryan Poles Joined the TV Broadcast During Bears’ Preseason Finale
Ryan Poles: ‘You Gotta Add Playmakers’
Heading into his second season at the helm of the organization, this offseason was very different from last year. Then, the Bears were stripping this roster of a lot of its top talent. That included a former No. 8 overall pick in linebacker Roquan Smith who was traded to the Baltimore Ravens.
They also traded the franchise’s single-season sack leader, Robert Quinn, to the Philadelphia Eagles less than one year after he set the record.
Poles’ tenure began tearing things down. So what was the difficult part about building?
“It’s staying disciplined within the process. You get excited, you want to do a lot of things. But you want to make sure that you’re kind of cross-checking that with, ‘Is this the best decision for our organization?’ In terms of sustaining success for a long period of time.”
The Bears added a host of proven weapons and protection for third-year quarterback Justin Fields including wide receiver DJ Moore and right guard Nate Davis.
YAC king, @idjmoore 👑
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 26, 2023
Their goal was to give quarterback Justin Fields the best chance for success.
“You gotta add playmakers, and then you’ve gotta give these guys time to grow,” Poles said. “The systems that they come from in college, and the talent bump up that you get at the next level, it takes time to adapt to that. So, as we continue to improve our roster around him, we expect him to take that next step as well.”
What does that look like for Fields, in Poles’ eyes?
“I think what we’re looking for now, and we’ve seen this in practice and some of the games, is just that poise and letting the game kind of slow down so he can make really good decisions, and create explosive plays with his arms,” he said.
Fields has seemingly welcomed that pressure, already declaring that he will become the Bears’ first 4,000-yard passer this season.
With those new weapons – and protection – he may very well do it.
Poles on Bears’ Young Bookends
Poles struck gold in the 2022 draft with fifth-round left tackle Braxton Jones. Jones took every snap last season, and this summer has been the lone constant amid a rash of injuries to his teammates.
“I do [feel good about Jones],” Poles said. “You wanna talk about an impressive kid. To go from a small school to the NFL level and to play every single snap this season is incredible. Really with him, his mindset, his focus, his ability to be a pro has been outstanding.”
Jones’s sound mental approach was evident right away last season. But, like all young players, he had to refine several things and has gone about doing just that, much to Poles’ delight.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 23, 2022
“This summer he attacked his body, gained like 10 pounds of lean muscle — which is impressive — as he continues to try to anchor up even better than he did last year. [He] spent some time Olin Kruetz mastering his craft and getting better. So we’re excited about Braxton.”
On the other side, rookie Darnell Wright – the No. 10 overall pick in the draft – missed the finale with an opener.
But Poles has like what he’s seen from the youngster so far.
“Everything that you saw on tape has shown up in training camp: the toughness, the grittiness that he has has been incredible,” Poles said. “His ability to move defenders of the line of scrimmage as well as anchor up in the pass game. We’ve gotta continue working on the technique and some of those detail parts of playing in the NFL. But I know as he plays through that, I know he’s going to get better and better as we go.”
Jones and Wright are two key pieces to the puzzle of helping Fields reach the heights as a runner and a passer. Poles knows what it means if he can.
“If we can get both of those things … that’s gonna create problems for the defense,” he said.
Ryan Poles Wants DTs to ‘Grow Together’
As for his defense, Poles was asked about reinforcing the defensive tackle position in the draft. He selected three of them in April. All three of Gervon Dexter Sr., Zacch Pickens, and Travis Bell have flashed this preseason.
They also have a close bond. But Dexter and Pickens, in particular, have heightened expectations attached to them given their draft pedigree.
— COACH Luis Mcleod (@SSPHTX) August 25, 2023
“Both those guys are getting better every time they have an outing,” Poles said. “I think it’s a good opportunity, also, for two rookies to grow together. To learn from Justin [Jones], and to learn from [Andrew] Billings, who have been great mentors to both of them. So we look for them for them to continue to ascend as we go through the season.”
Billings spoke of having to watch Pickens to see how he can help him – Pickens is his understudy but has a different body type.
On the outside, EDGE rusher is suddenly a position of depth. To the point that fourth-year man Trevis Gipson has demanded a trade with news breaking during the game before Poles joined the broadcast.
“We’re real proud of both of those guys,” Poles said about Gipson and preseason standout Terrell Lewis. “They’ve come along well, they’re competing. That’s part of our job in the front office, is to add competition, and see if we can get the best out of everyone. And I think that’s what we’re seeing.”
Injuries and Cutdowns
One thing he has not liked seeing is all of the injuries. The Bears have seen a good portion of their starters miss most if not all of the preseason.
“It’s been tough, I’m not gonna lie,” Poles said.
“When you have guys in and out of the lineup, it’s hard to jell. So we’re gonna really focus on that as we move forward. I have confidence that a lot of these guys are gonna be back, and we can get a full five up there.”
In the meantime, the team is keeping their eyes and ears peeled ahead of the August 29 roster cutdown deadline.
“Busy couple days right now. Our staff is watching a ton of tape right now of all the teams around the league to see if there’s guys that potentially could be cut or traded that can improve our football team.”
Even after all the moves he’s made overhauling the roster, Poles is still looking to be aggressive, perhaps with how far the franchise had fallen in mind.
“Really from the beginning, we talked about being relentless in improving our football team,” Poles added. “We’ll continue to do that. The one thing you’ll notice as you improve your football team…that gets harder to do, obviously. We’ll continue to stay relentless, and bring guys in if they can help us improve the team.”