Fields’ progress, Brisker’s impact among five minicamp takeaways originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Matt Eberflus concluded his first offseason program as the Bears’ head coach Thursday when mandatory veteran minicamp wrapped up at Halas Hall.
Training camp will be the next time Eberflus gets his hands on his young roster.
“The summer for these guys is going to be important, and the message I said after practice to them is come back lean, fit, and strong,” Eberflus said Thursday after the final practice of mandatory minicamp.
“Obviously, I left them with, ‘Get your track shoes on,’ like I started my first press conference because we’re going to be running once we get to training camp. Training camp’s not to get in shape. You should already be in shape. You should be ready to go for training camp because we are blowing and going from Day 1. That was my main message to them. “
Bears rookies will come back to Halas Hall on July 23, with veterans returning on the 26th.
With the Bears heading into summer break, here’s what we learned during their three-day minicamp.
So… the offense might be bad
After struggling during the three OTA sessions available to the media, the Bears’ offense opened minicamp with a subpar showing Tuesday. Justin Fields was intercepted twice, including a pick-six by Jaylon Johnson.
Fields was honest after Day 1 of camp, saying the offense had a long way to go to be ready for Week 1.
It’s not surprising that Fields and the offense are still working through things. It’s a new system, and the Bears are still trying to find an offensive line combination that works. Sprinkle in an almost entirely new receiving corps, and you can see why the offense is still going through some growing pains.
But that might not be Fields’ fault
The Bears’ offense could very well struggle this fall, and it might have little to do with Fields.
The second-year quarterback followed a poor showing on Day 1 of minicamp with a sharp outing on Day 2. Fields was accurate and on time while showing good command of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system.
On the final day of minicamp, Fields found both Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet for touchdowns during the red-zone period. He was picked off by Thomas Graham Jr. in the “move the ball” session, but the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
In the few glimpses we’ve had of Fields in Getsy’s system, it’s easy to see how the Bears ‘offensive coordinator plans to maximize Fields’ strengths by getting him on the move and pushing the ball down the field when time calls for it.
If the Bears’ offense has its issues this season, it likely will be because of what Chicago has placed around Fields, not the play of No. 1.
No answer on the offensive line
Eberflus was adamant the Bears planned to evenly split the first-team reps this offseason between their two alignments, one with Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins at tackle and one with Borom and Jones as the bookends.
Jones has had to learn quickly while playing with the ones. During the past seven weeks, the fifth-round pick has gotten better at throwing his hands. Still, Jones was whistled for several penalties during minicamp and appeared to be a step slow off the ball at times.
Eberflus said the staff would get together after camp and discuss what they liked and didn’t like from the offensive line groups they tried out. The Bears coach said nothing was off the table, including trying Jenkins at right guard.
Lucas Patrick (center) and Cody Whitehair (left guard) appear set, but the other three spots are massive question marks as the Bears head toward training camp.
With salary cap space to use, could the Bears elect to take a one-year flier on a veteran tackle like Duane Brown or center JC Tretter?
Given how important this season is for Fields’ growth, it would seem reckless to trot him out behind a line filled with unknowns.
The secondary could be… good
Jaquan Brisker arrived and has immediately made an impact. The second-round pick’s desire to play in the box should free up Eddie Jackson to return to free safety where he is more comfortable.
Brisker and fellow rookie Kyler Gordon have impressed with their ability to take the ball away this offseason. While Gordon didn’t participate in minicamp, nothing at the moment suggests the rookie won’t be ready come September.
The Bears’ secondary was downright atrocious last season. However, in one offseason, Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles appear to have transformed it into a strength by adding Brisker and Gordon.
If Brisker and Gordon are healthy and as advertised, the Bears’ secondary should be among the team’s best units.
Robert Quinn’s absence has a significant impact
Quinn elected not to show up for mandatory minicamp as trade rumors swirl.
While Quinn’s absence means more reps for the likes of Dominique Robinson, it’s clear that losing Quinn, should his days in Chicago be over, will be felt across the defensive line.
If the Bears end up trading Quinn, Trevis Gipson goes from high-ceiling No. 2 pass rusher to guy opponents will look to neutralize. Quinn being gone will also put more pressure on Justin Jones to be more of a pass-rush force. It could also force Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams to get more exotic with their pressures.
Quinn’s absence will also be felt on the other side of the ball during training camp. No matter who the two starting tackles are, having a top-level edge rusher in Quinn to go against in practice would be a big help to a young tackle group. Facing off against a real bender like Quinn would provide several valuable teaching moments for Jones, Borom, and Jenkins.
If the Bears and Quinn do part ways, it will leave a void the Bears can’t fill this season.
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