LAKE FOREST — The Chicago Bears wrapped up their final day of voluntary OTAs at Halas Hall on Wednesday.
For the first time with the media in attendance, Jaylon Johnson and Nate Davis practiced — giving the Bears a more complete look as to what the starting units will look like on both sides of the ball.
Here are the top takeaways from the press conferences and notes from the practice.
All about winning for Luke Getsy and Justin Fields
Justin Fields ran for more yards than any quarterback last season with 1,143 yards.
The Bears’ quarterback has been open and honest about not wanting to rely so heavily on his legs moving forward.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, on the other hand, wasn’t too concerned about it as long as one thing happens.
“I just hope we win games,” Getsy said on Wednesday. “Whatever it takes to win games. I’m not really interested in whatever way that looks other than we have a particular playstyle that we expect and demand.”
The Bears finished first in the NFL with 3,014 rushing yards last season. But in order for the offense to take the next step, the passing attack must improve.
Getsy was asked whether Fields has been more vocal about wanting to pass more.
“He should. He’s been most vocal about wanting to win,” Getsy said. “That’s what we talk about most, and how we can improve that, and give us an opportunity to go out and win as much as we possibly can.”
The Bears will be in the best position to win games in 2023 if Fields and the passing game improve. Another season of 130.5 yards passing per game won’t result in Chicago being relevant in the NFC North.
But Fields’ ability to run is something a lot of quarterbacks don’t possess in the NFL.
So that area of his game can’t just be simply forgotten.
“Yeah, I think the running part of it, most of that is a natural thing once you’re in the moment,” Getsy said. “But decision-making, we’re working on every single day. Timing and rhythm we’re working on every single day. And lastly, the situation that you’re in. Putting that all together, you’re just increasing the football IQ so you know better when to take those opportunities and when not to, because there are plenty of times on film that he shouldn’t do it, and even though it worked out for us, in the long run, there’s a better decision.
There’s a better way. And then there’s times I can coach and say, ‘You should do this,’ but then his instincts tell him to do something and we have to trust that, too. I by no means will make that guy robotic. I don’t believe in doing that with any player. But there’s a way to refine it all and improve our decision-making and trusting our timing and rhythm and we’ll take it from there.”
For now, Fields will continue working with his teammates through OTAs and minicamp to develop the chemistry in Phase 2 of the offseason program. Over the next eight days before the Bears break until training camp, Getsy isn’t looking for anything crazy out of Fields.
“There is nothing in particular. It’s just that same growth. It has to be continued to growth maybe that’s a better way to say it,” Getsy said. “The command of everything that we are doing. The way that he is calling plays, the way that he is commanding guys, the way that we are throwing routes on air and having communication with his expectation of where they should be, when they are supposed to be there, all of that stuff. We just want to keep continuing to grow together and get this thing primed and ready to roll so that July we are hitting and running.”
Jaylon Johnson isn’t worried about a new contract
On Wednesday, Jaylor Johnson had the opportunity to clearly state why he didn’t attend the first two weeks of voluntary OTAs.
When he was asked about the topic and whether his absence had anything to do with a contract holdout, he completely shot down that idea.
“Not even close. No. Anybody who knows me, that’s not my character. I think at the end of the day, for me, me, I wouldn’t even say holding out, just having prior priorities,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, everybody knows I have a 3-year-old daughter back at home in California and I’m a dad before I’m anything else. Before I’m a football player, before I’m anything. I’m a dad first. I don’t get to spend too much time with her during the season because she’s back at home in California.
“Me in the offseason, I take pride in being a dad. I’m not just any old type of dad that just comes and sees their kid. I’m present. I’m spending time. I’m putting my heart into my daughter. When it comes to the offseason, I take that serious. I communicated that to the coaches and they understood and hopefully respected it. At the end of the day, I’m gonna be there for my daughter because they can find another corner. My daughter can’t find another dad. I take pride in that.”
There’s most likely a lot of fathers out there that would completely agree with Johnson’s explanation. Even though Johnson wasn’t physically present at Halas Hall for the first two weeks of OTAs, he still attended Zoom calls and texted with his position coach Jon Hoke.
Johnson decided to come back this week because “it’s the last week of OTAs” and other aspects of his life outside of football have “calmed down. Obviously this is a positive for the defense, but the question still remains about a contract extension.
As of now, Johnson doesn’t have an agent, but is in the process of “signing with an agent.” And the fourth-year cornerback made it clear that he wants to get an extension and stay with the Bears.
For now, though, Johnson’s focus is on the things he can control and isn’t worried about when or if a new contract gets done.
“For me, I don’t have to do too much,” Johnson said. “I just go out and continue to be who I am, continue to be the player I am, keep getting better, keep finding ways to improve my game. And really, just find ways to win. For me, I’m not too worried about it. Of course, the contract and stuff, there are gonna be talks, there are gonna be some things that get brought up. But at the end of the day, that’s above me to an extent. Just trying to stay focused and keep the main thing the main thing. And when that comes up, handle that situation when it comes.”
Jaquan Brisker feels the Fields and Moore chemistry
It may only be OTAs, but Jaquan Brisker can see something special blossoming between Justin Fields and DJ Moore.
He would know, especially since the second-year safety has to face the duo in practice on a consistent basis.
“It look like they got that chemistry going very fast, earlier than I expected,” Brisker said. “They look good though. They look like they best friends. Justin’s definitely throwing him the ball. Two’s getting the ball, no doubt. Justin looks good though. He’s going through his progressions. He’s looking very smooth, making good decisions out there and looking like the best quarterback in the NFL. I thought that last year, but this year it’s different. One look different and him and two… you gonna see. You will see.”
Last season, Fields didn’t have a playmaker like Moore that could create separation and come down with difficult catches. Although Fields and Moore are still in the beginning stage of their bonding, Brisker can already feel the difference that Moore adds to the offense.
“I’d say it is a big difference because he has his receiver out there that he wants and that he knows he can trust and throw it to,” Brisker said. “I won’t say anything bad from last year, but just compared to last year, he just looks different. It’s a different energy. And you know that feeling when you’re out there looking and you see 1 and 2 going out there and he’s throwing that ball to 2 and he’s getting it, he’s catching it. It’s timing routes and it’s on time. So it’s a different chemistry right now. And it’s just OTAs, they just started, so the sky’s the limit for them for sure. For Justin, for DJ and for that offense. Sky is the limit. You’re going to see.”
- Let’s start with some takeaways from 7 on 7s. Here was Justin Fields’ best play of the day.
- Fields also had a pass tipped by T.J. Edwards and it was intercepted by second-year safety Elijah Hicks in the 7 on 7 portion of practice.
- Jaquan Brisker played tight coverage against Cole Kmet toward the flat on the right side of the field. Fields rifled a pass to Kmet, but the tight end couldn’t hang on to the catchable ball. Credit goes to Brisker for making it a tough play to execute from the start.
- Fields had some misfires on some vertical routes in Wednesday’s practice. Fellow rookies Tyler Scott and Tyrique Stevenson lined up against each other on the left side of the field. Scott ran a vertical route and had a step on Stevenson, but Fields’ pass fluttered in the wind and Scott was unable to make the catch despite a diving attempt.
- Another overthrow went to the opposite side of the field but to Velus Jones Jr. Again Stevenson was in coverage. Jones had a step on Stevenson but Fields sailed the ball out of the back of the end zone.
- Toward the end of practice, Cairo Santos went 6 for 6 on his field goal attempts.
- The Bears had the quarterbacks (Fields, PJ Walker, Nathan Peterman and Tyson Bagent) line up at the 50-yard line and throw into a net placed at the 10 towards the left end zone. Each of the quarterbacks had more than a handful of attempts, but were only able to make one each. Quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko got the final pass and nailed it on a walkoff throw. He also explained the reasoning behind that drill
- “We’re always trying to put ourselves into the throw we’re gonna make, so working our deep throws,” Janocko said. “We threw into the wind that one. So just putting ourselves in the situation you gonna see at Soldier on game day. So we threw into the wind. You’re trying to hit the net, but you’re also trying to have the right trajectory into the net. You’re trying to keep your feet. Because if you make one and your feet aren’t right, that doesn’t count, either. So just putting yourself into those deep-ball throws that you’ll see us trying to make in the game and then doing it not just getting into the net, but getting into the net the right way, where you think it’s either a catch-and-run or the receiver has to go up and get it, but facilitating those game-like throws.”
- As I was leaving Halas Hall, there were some Bears fans waiting for an autograph outside the driveway of the main entrance. A car was parked next to the people. Tremaine Edmunds stopped and signed a few items for the fans.