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What we learned during Week 1

What we learned from Fields, Bears during Week 1 of camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST — The Bears wrapped up their first week of training camp Saturday at Halas Hall.

The week started with uncertainty surrounding the contract status of rookie Jaquan Brisker and linebacker Roquan Smith. Throw in the questions about Robert Quinn’s intentions, and it looked like the Bears would be encompassed by drama as they prepared for the 2022 season.

But that was quelled, for the most part, early in the week.

The Bears signed Brisker and Quinn stated he wants and plans to play for the Bears this fall.
Smith, meanwhile, went on the PUP list with an undisclosed injury that might be correlated to his contractual dispute with the team.

On the field, the Bears’ offense continued to look clunky during its installation, and center Lucas Patrick’s hand injury gave them their first dose of adversity. On the bright side, quarterback Justin Fields made several impressive throws, and the Bears’ rookie class popped.

Here’s what we learned from Week 1 of training camp:

The offense has issues, but it’s not Justin Fields’ fault

The Bears’ offense struggled to execute most of the first four days of practice. There were several pre-snap penalties, dropped passes, and a botched hand-off during Saturday’s run-game heavy practice.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy bemoaned the offensive issues after Day 2 and promised the Bears would get things corrected.

There’s no question the offense, as a whole, leaves a lot to be desired. If we’re handing out letter grades, the unit gets a C/C- for Week 1.

Fields, however, was not the issue.

The second-year quarterback had an above-average second day but delivered an impressive performance on Day 3, showcasing his ability to bounce back from adversity and change the game with his arms and legs.

After being picked off by Kyler Gordon and Brisker to start the red-zone period Friday, Fields ripped off a dazzling string of plays that included a jump-pass to Cole Kmet for a touchdown and an off-platform bullet to Equanimeous St. Brown for a jump-ball score. Fields finished the day by going perfect in seven-on-seven drills, where the offense had a clear advantage. Fields ended the day with three straight touchdown passes to Darnell Mooney, David Montgomery, and N’Keal Harry.

Fields’ growth from Year 1 to Year 2 has been apparent, and the Bears should be optimistic about where he stands in his development.

The rookies are for real

The hype around Brisker and Gordon has been growing steadily since they walked into Halas Hall. The Bears’ coaches have consistently praised the duo’s ability to take the ball away, and their rare gifts are evident to their teammates.

“He’s just a freak athlete man,” safety Eddie Jackson said of Gordon. “If you see him, like, some of the plays he makes, it’s not even his man. He’s coming off his man, making plays on the ball. So just seeing how very instinctive he is. He’s smart. He’s willing to learn. He talks less, he takes everything in. When you have a guy like that, you know he’s going to be special.”

Jackson and Brisker study film together frequently, and the veteran safety praised the rookie for “asking the right questions” during their sessions.

Gordon and Brisker picked off Fields on Day 3 of practice, shining a light on a friendly competition brewing between the two rookies.

“I pay attention,” Brisker said of wanting to match Gordon’s interception. “Once he got the first one, I was like, ‘I got to get one now, I got to get one.’ So, there’s definitely a competition between everyone in the room with the corners and safeties and linebackers. You know, I’m definitely trying to be the takeaway king.”

The rookies are always around the ball. Gordon notched another interception during individual drills on Day 4 when he blanketed Nsimba Webster in coverage. Brisker followed with a crafty pass breakup on tight end James O’Shaughnessy.

As they enter Week 2 of camp, the Bears have many questions, but the rookies aren’t one.

The offensive line isn’t close to being resolved

The Bears signed veterans Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield at the start of camp. The belief was that a once unclear line was now stable, with Reiff and Schofield joining Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, and Larry Borom in the starting group.

That, however, might not be the case.

Patrick suffered a hand injury on Day 2 of camp. There is no timetable for his return. Rookie Doug Kramer got most of the first-team reps at center on Day 3, but Sam Mustipher mainly manned that spot on Day 4.

The Bears spent all week shuffling guys in and out of the first-team offensive line. Rookies Braxton Jones, Ja’Tyre Carter, and Kramer all got significant snaps. Sixth-round pick Zachary Thomas got some first-team time on Day 3, while Whitehair had a veteran day.

Reiff and Schofield spent most of the week on a veteran ramp-up program. They didn’t see action in 11-on-11 drills until Saturday.

Meanwhile, Teven Jenkins was absent for the final three practices of the week. Head coach Matt Eberflus said the second-year tackle is “working through something,” but would not disclose the illness. Jenkins saw a lot of work as the extra eligible blocker during Day 2.

The Bears would like to find an offensive line combination as soon as possible, but it’s unclear when the puzzle pieces will fall into place.

Velus Jones Jr.’s speed should be a game-changer

Outside of Darnell Mooney, the Bears’ have a lot of receivers who could either finish camp as the No. 2 options or off the roster entirely.

Only two receivers not named Mooney popped through the first week of camp. St. Brown, who spent time in a similar system in Green Bay with Getsy, had a few solid practices and was a favorite target of Fields during the red-zone and goal-line drills on Day 3.

The other receiver who made an impression was third-round pick Velus Jones Jr.

On Saturday, Jones Jr. showed off his game-breaking speed in individual drills and 11-on-11 action. He scorched cornerback Greg Stroman for a 60-yard touchdown in one-on-one work and then beat Gordon for a big gain down the left sideline in team drills. Gordon had good coverage on the play, but Jones used his speed to create enough separation for Fields to drop it in the bucket.

The rookie out of Tennessee said the Bears are throwing a lot of things at him to make him as versatile a weapon as possible in Year 1.

“They’re moving me from Z, F, X,” Jones said Friday after practice. “They want me to know everything, so it’s been really fun getting to work with my QBs and stuff like that. But they know my abilities. They know the reason why they drafted me. I am really good with the ball in my hands. Wherever they need me to be, I’m just going to be there and execute.”

Four days in, it’s clear the Bears will need to find every possible way to get the ball in Jones’ hands.

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