LAKE FOREST — Justin Fields ended Thursday at Halas Hall with his best day of minicamp.
The Bears primarily worked on their red zone offense and defense, and Fields showcased his ability to make some tight-window throws, with his best going to tight end Robert Tonyan.
Tonyan ran an out-breaking route to the left portion of the end zone and started to separate from second-year safety Elijah Hicks on the play. Fields ripped a pass into a congested area of the field, over T.J. Edward’s outstretched arm, and Tonyan stuck his right hand out to make the catch.
Tonyan was asked in Wednesday’s practice how he has been trying to develop his chemistry with Fields.
“Being, honestly, like a genuine person,” Tonyan said. “I, honestly, I like talking to people, getting to know people. If you just have a locker room where people go in there and you’re sitting on your phone and you’re just chilling, you’d be surprised at how many people nowadays are just head down on their phone. Just team bonding activities. That’s what OTAs really are here for. You know, you’re gonna learn offense and you’re gonna figure stuff out and you’re gonna compete, but what OTAs really are is to have that down time and close time with those players that you don’t get during the season because the season’s long and grueling.
“Once you leave this building, you’re not trying to do anything else other than go rest, recover and you have a schedule, so just building those relationships. That’s what coach Flus has been big on. Trying to get people to know each other, trust each other, love each other and then you’ll go that extra mile for your brother. “
The trust was on full display on that touchdown throw and catch, and Fields threw plenty more touchdowns in the condensed practice.
Here are more of the top plays from Thursday’s minicamp finale.
Overview of red zone plays
- The best throw of practice was Fields’ touchdown to Tonyan, but the best play, in my opinion, was the first touchdown Fields had with Dante Pettis. Pettis lined up with Kyler Gordon opposite of him in man coverage. Fields got the snap, surveyed the field and rolled out to his right when he saw nobody was open. Gordon had great coverage on Pettis, but when the veteran receiver saw Fields extend the play, Pettis adjusted his route, stopped on a dime and ran towards the right portion of the end zone. Fields capitalized on the cushion Pettis created and threw the ball. The pass was high, but Pettis used his vertical to high point the football and came down with two feet in bounds to secure the touchdown.
- ANALYSIS: This is a play that should happen a lot in the regular season. Fields has the ability to extend plays with his legs, which will create more opportunities to make things happen even if the defense has good initial coverage. Pettis was with Fields last season, so it was encouraging to see him adjust to his quarterback. Now, if the rest of the receiving core can do the same, there will be a lot of unscripted plays made this season.
- Fields also connected with Cole Kmet for a touchdown. Kmet ran a corner route to the same spot on the field where Tonyan caught his touchdown, and Fields delivered an accurate fastball to his tight end. Eddie Jackson and Tyrique Stevenson were in coverage on the play. After Kmet scored, Jackson looked over at Stevenson and said, “Thought you would be there rook.”
- Fields was asked what is the most important element to make that kind of throw? “Just on that one – just, like I said, when those get tighter down there – they were in, I think, shell coverage down there and Bo Jack had inside leverage, so really on that one, it was just beating Bo Jack to the spot right there,” Fields said. “That’s why it was kind of a flat throw right there, because Bo Jack has seen our concepts. He knows, and Tyrique – we know he’s going to jump those little out routes – so I was waiting for that one. Just fitting it in the window and really being ready to throw and putting it in a spot where only he can get it.”
- Fields’ first incompletion of the day happened on a dropped pass from rookie wide receiver Tyler Scott. The pass hit Scott right in the hands and would’ve been a touchdown. After Scott dropped the pass, Jaquan Brisker said, “Too big for the moment.”
- Fields’ first touchdown of the day went to Equanimeous St. Brown. The 6-foot-5, 214-pound receiver was left wide open in the middle of the end zone.
- Nathan Peterman had a highlight play in Thursday’s practice. The veteran quarterback rolled to his left to extend the play and looked to the right middle portion of the end zone. Peterman threw across his body and connected with former Delaware wide receiver Thyrick Pitts for a touchdown.
- Daurice Fountain was open at least twice in today’s practice, and if the ball was thrown in his direction, he easily would’ve scored. Good out breaking routes both times from Fountain.
- PJ Wallker connected with Jake Tonges for a touchdown.
Takeaways from Fields and Eberflus
The Justin Fields and DJ Moore connection has been on full display throughout OTAs and minicamp. The two have a highlight reel full of plays just from the few practices the media has been able to attend. Fields was asked about the chemistry the two have developed on the field in such a short amount of time.
“I mean it did come on quickly,” Fields said. “I didn’t really expect anything because it’s different for each guy but I feel like with DJ his body language is pretty easy to read. Really, early on we communicated on how we want each route ran and stuff like that. Of course he has a lot of experience. He’s been in the league for a good period of time now. He’s played a lot of football so he knows different coverages really well. That’s one thing that I was kind of impressed about, like, with the offense coming in and just understanding, seeing coverages really well on short routes and stuff like that. He’s been great. And you know, the chemistry has really picked up.”
It can’t be understated how important it was to acquire Moore in the trade for the No. 1 overall pick. Fields has a No. 1 wide receiver who can not only be a go-to target but also a guide when it comes to attacking different defenses.
There has been a lot of talk about the Bears’ culture under coach Matt Eberflus. In a three-win season in 2022, the locker room never waivered. And now with a large portion of new players, that same culture has carried over and is slowly being instilled.
Eberflus should take credit for establishing an identity that players can buy into, but he also has the players from last year to thank for helping make make the transition happen.
“I think it has been beneficial this second year because we can have our players help with that,” Eberflus said. “Justin, Mooney, Cole all those guys – Justin Jones – they can all help with that culture and teaching the guys. You bring guys in that love football and guys that care about their teammates – like Tremaine, TJ, all the guys that love the game, DJ. It’s pretty easy to bring that culture along and it’s really about building the relationships with the guy next to you.”