LAKE FOREST — The Bears held their second and final practice for rookie minicamp at Halas Hall on Saturday.
The vibes, though, were a little different than Friday’s practice.
It was a big country music day. Throughout the entirety of practice, Luke Combs songs were blasting on the speaker system. Everything from “Fast Car” to “Better Back When” played while the rookies and undrafted free agents attempted to showcase their abilities in front of the Bears’ brass.
Maybe Combs performing at Soldier Field on Saturday night had something to do with all the country music played?
Other than the music, here are my top takeaways from Day 2 of Bears rookie minicamp:
Building chemistry with Justin Fields
The Bears have added some much-needed talent to their offense for the 2023 season. Offensive linemen, wide receivers and running backs have all been added to the roster. All of which should help Justin Fields in his third year as a pro.
These additions were absolutely necessary because it gives the Bears’ organization the best opportunity to evaluate Fields this season. Even though Fields now has enough playmakers, including a No. 1 wide receiver in DJ Moore, to have this production increase, there are some factors that must be considered for that ascension to happen.
“Quarterback-receiver relationship is so important,” Getsy said. “As great of a quarterback as you can or as great as a receiver can be, if there’s not a relationship and a connection between the two of them, then it doesn’t really matter. They’re in that phase right now of getting to know each other. What’s cool is DJ’s experiences that he’s had, he’s had to play with a few different quarterbacks and a few different systems, so you can tell he doesn’t really get fazed by the new, which is gonna be really good. Once those two can communicate with each other — body language, quick communication verbally and stuff — all that will get better as we get going. It’s been fun to see those guys throw some routes on air as we get into this Phase 2 part of it.”
Bears quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko explained that Phase 2 will focus on building the timing and rhythm for Fields and his playmakers.
“It’s putting them in situations where they’re building familiarity throwing the routes on air, looking at the concepts where you don’t necessarily have a defense out there but you can time things up so when things are perfect it becomes automatic and those guys get a feel for each other,” Janocko said.
Once that chemistry begins to develop, this will help Fields and the rest of the offense become more productive in the passing game. And according to Janocko, the passing attack “has to be a strong point in our game” and needs “to take a step forward” in 2023.
And Fields is in a more advantageous position now to help the Bears achieve those goals.
“I think he’s just light years ahead of where he was, and I feel like he has a ton more to grow going forward,” Getsy said. “So we’re excited to try to get the best out of him moving forward and keep working toward where we think he can go.”
Richard Hightower on Roschon Johnson
It would seem nearly impossible to find one person who has anything negative to say about Roschon Johnson. Since the Bears drafted the running back out of Texas in the fourth round last weekend, everyone from general manager Ryan Poles, to coaches, scouts and fans have raved about the rookie.
That continued when special teams coordinator Richard Hightower spoke to reporters on Saturday. Hightower shared a story about Johnson on how he helped clean a meeting room after some of his teammates left some water bottles before he went to his next meeting.
“That just shows you that he wants things the way he wants it,” Hightower said. “He wants things tidy and he’s going to hold guys accountable. So when I saw that, that’s just who he is. He didn’t like how the room looked. Guys had water bottles left, he picked them up, threw them in the trash and then went to his meeting. You guys are going to like him a lot and I think he’s a helluva running back, too.”
After the Bears drafted Johnson, Hightower also said that he received several text messages from special teams coaches around the league, praising the Bears on their selection.
Like Johnson did at Texas, the rookie will help Hightower throughout his special teams unit. The only question is, how long that will last since Johnson, like Hightower said, is a “helluva running back, too.”
Hightower admitted he can’t stop Johnson from becoming the No. 1 running back on team, but even if he does, the Bears’ special teams coach will welcome that idea.
“I just think this guy, for me, when a guy excels and ascends like that, we applaud that in our room,” Hightower said. “I can’t stop him from being the No. 1 back, but I hope, I hope, OK, I hope that whatever he is for the Bears, he’s everything that we drafted him for.”
Chris Morgan on the offensive line
Darnell Wright’s performance in the private workout that the Bears put him through left a lasting impression on Bears general manager Ryan Poles and offensive line coach Chris Morgan.
Wright was the only offensive line prospect that went through the grueling workout.
“Anytime you go work these guys out, number one you want to see the information they can take in and retain and then go apply on the field,” Morgan said. “You can speed the tempo up with the snap count, you can speed the tempo up with how many reps you go, and he did a nice job with it mentally, physically. He did a good job.”
Some of Wright’s areas of focus as he heads into his rookie season will include getting acclimated to the verbiage, how to huddle, learning different snap counts and to understand different defensive terminology.
One of the biggest transitions for rookie offensive tackles comes down to their overall play strength. And Morgan said that Wright is “a strong person, strong guy,” so that should help him with his transition to playing in the NFL.
Morgan also touched on the rest of the offensive line when he met with reporters following the practice. Morgan said that Teven Jenkins will be the left guard. After Braxton Jones’ rookie season, Morgan also Jones is the left tackle going into camp. But when asked about who is his starting center, the offensive line coach didn’t specify on one individual.
“We’ve got Cody over there. We’ve Lucas over there,” Morgan said. “We’ve got Doug Kramer over there. Dieter Eiselen’s repped at center. It’s gonna be cool. It’s gonna be a good battle. “
Practice Camp Notes
Unfortunately, there aren’t as many practice notes due to the Bears conducting all of the team activities and 7 on 7s drill on the far field, opposite of reporters.
- In the individual drills, I focused on rookie fourth-round draft pick Tyler Scott. He looked crisp making cuts at each cone and caught the ball cleanly.
- Fellow fourth-round pick Roschon Johnson also showed off his hands, catching a low pass in the flat during team drills.
- Syracuse kicker Andrew Szmyt nailed a field goal from the 40-yard line and had plenty of leg left.
- Northwestern wide receiver Donny Navarro made a few good catches throughout the practice, including a clean reception over the middle of the field.
- Seventh-round draft pick Kendall Williamson got himself an interception during team drills. Quarterback Tyson Bagent’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by fellow rookie Noah Sewell and Williamson capitalized with the turnover.
- Houston wide receiver KeSean Carter made a deep catch over the middle of field and scored on the play.