The Chicago Bears are wrapping up organized team activities and will return to Halas Hall next week for a mandatory three-day minicamp. Coaches and players feel encouraged by the progress they’re making through the offseason program and hope to get a little more out of their remaining practices before parting ways for a short summer break before training camp.
Here are five things we learned in training and in interviews with coaches and players on Wednesday.
1. The chemistry continues to grow between new receiver DJ Moore and quarterback Justin Fields.
With each practice, it becomes more evident that Fields is gaining confidence in Moore, who shows a consistent ability to open up. The most interesting endorsement on Wednesday may come from Bears safety Jaquan Brisker.
“They seem like best friends,” Brisker said. “Justin definitely throws the ball at him. … You’ll see. You will see.”
The praise for Moore has been flowing since he arrived in a March trade with the Carolina Panthers that involved the No. 1 pick. The Bears expect Moore to be a major weapon in their offense and have been delighted to see how well things went between the 26-year-old wide receiver and his quarterback.
Bears quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said Wednesday that Moore’s understanding of coverage and his ability to attack defenses accordingly quickly made him a friendly target for Fields.
“He’s so sweet coming out of breaks,” Janocko said. “He gets off the line (quickly). He has common sense. He’s really smart. And with a smart player and a smart receiver, the way they can go down, the way they can beat the press (man cover), the way they can beat the cloud (cover), that really helps him to open up, so as a quarterback you’re not even thinking about ‘Is he at the window?’ He is at the window.
Receivers coach Tyke Tolbert echoed that praise for Moore’s football IQ.
“Justin has this confidence in him to be able to open up,” Tolbert added. “He will find it. And DJ did a lot of stuff for us that spring. Let’s hope this continues.
2. The Bears were left without receivers Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool.
Mooney continues to work after the tightrope surgery he underwent after fracturing his left fibula in a loss to the New York Jets in November. On the plus side, Bears coach Matt Eberflus said Mooney is “on the right track” in his recovery and will likely be back on the field for training camp this summer.
“Barring any setbacks, he’ll be ready,” Eberflus said.
Claypool has been out of action for the last two OTA practices that have been open to media with what Eberflus noted last week as a minor soft tissue injury. The setback is not considered serious.
3. Luke Getsy was blunt with where he set his sights on developing his offense during OTAs and minicamp.
There’s not much an offense can accomplish during this phase of the offseason. And Getsy was realistic about setting goals accordingly as the Bears prepare for training camp.
“You want to improve fundamentally,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. And then (it’s) getting that chemistry and making sure your football IQ is where it needs to be so that when we hit this thing in July, we’re not talking about something that’s setting us back.
Getsy was asked how much command he feels with his staff and his vision for how he hopes to shape the offense.
“Command sounds like a pretty strong word,” he said. “I feel like we’re getting to know each other. We are in this process.
“The style and format at this time of year doesn’t necessarily allow you to play the brand of football you want to play when the time comes. But we’re making progress. The guys are getting to know each other, (improving) the chemistry.
Getsy stressed the need for players to feel the timing and rhythm of the passing game and for any newcomer to understand cadences and other fine details.
As for Fields, Getsy’s biggest box on the checklist is “continued growth.”
“It’s the command of everything we do, the way he calls games, the way he commands guys, the way we throw routes in the air and communicate with his expectations of where to go. where they should be and when they’re supposed to be there,” Getsy said. “That’s it. … He works as hard as anybody else. So the work ethic leads by example. And since we’ve all been together for over a year now, I think his command and the communication part has continued to improve.
4. Jaquan Brisker sets high standards.
In many ways, Brisker had a promising rookie season after the Bears drafted safety in the second round. He had 104 tackles, five tackles for a loss, four sacks, one interception and two passes defended in 15 games.
But when Brisker looked back, he didn’t find much he liked.
“That’s my truthful answer,” he said. “There was nothing I was happy about last year.”
Brisker said injuries — a thumb that required surgery during preseason and a concussion at the end of the year — hampered his progress.
“When I came back (from the thumb injury) I was trying to move too fast instead of being in control, being myself, making plays and not giving up certain things or not be consistent,” Brisker said. “Usually I’m a consistent leader. You see it during this year’s OTAs, a very different energy. I fly around playing both safeties and things like that. So you’re definitely going to get a different (No.) 9 this year.
Brisker said he also got “a bit lost” during his concussion.
“Because when you have a concussion, you really have to sit in the dark all day,” he said. “So I really wasn’t with my teammates, I didn’t have the same energy. I had to recover my mind and I had to come back to myself. So it was huge. I had lost my routine and all kinds of things. Just walking past that and moving on, I felt like I was fine now.
5. Eberflus focuses on educating its players on NFL playing rules.
The NFL this offseason suspended five players, including four from the Detroit Lions, for violating league playing rules. And now the NFL is investigating Indianapolis Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers for potentially violating the rules of the game, including betting on Colts games.
Eberflus said the Bears reviewed league rules on the game the day after the first incident and an NFL panel will return to discuss it next week at minicamp.
“It’s hard to navigate because it’s hard to control other people’s actions,” Eberflus said. “But all you can do is educate them and tell them the appropriate actions they can take with certain things.”
Tight end Cole Kmet said there were nuances in the rules that he was unaware of.
“You have to be aware of the rules, and obviously winning doesn’t really make sense,” Kmet said. “If you’re an NFL football player betting on a game, the money you make playing a game versus betting a game doesn’t really mesh well.”