Bears training camp observations: Justin Fields displays growth without weapons

Bears training camp observations: Justin Fields displays growth without weapons

LAKE FOREST – It was an oppressively hot day at Bears training camp Saturday at Halas Hall. But one that provided yet another opportunity for the Bears to evaluate quarterback Justin Fields and how he responds to adversity.

On Saturday, Fields was without four of his likely top six receivers. Velus Jones Jr., Byron Pringle, and Dante Pettis all missed practice, while N’Keal Harry suffered what appeared to be a significant leg/ankle injury on the first snap of team drills. Harry caught a screen pass from Fields but got his ankle rolled up on by either linebacker Nicholas Morrow or Eddie Jackson.

On the offensive line, guard Cody Whitehair and tackle Riley Reiff had veteran days, while rookie Braxton Jones saw very limited snaps after appearing to tweak something during individual work.

That meant Fields was without four of his top six receivers and three of his likely starting offensive line.

Despite all the missing pieces, Fields was able to operate the Bears’ offense at a high rate.
In their first “move the ball” session, the Bears’ offense started at midfield.

Fields opened the drill by hitting tight end Cole Kmet for a 12-yard gain. He found Equanimeous St. Brown on a slant for a gain of 8 on the next play.

Three straight running plays gave the Bears a third-and-3 from the 20-yard line.

The Bears executed the third down play well, but Fields overthrew a wide-open Herbert in the left flat, and the offense had to settle for a field goal. A completion would have kept the drive alive.

The second situational drill saw the Bears take over on their own 30-yard line trailing by three with 55 seconds left and no timeouts.

This operation was a little less clean.

Fields threw incomplete deep for Darnell Mooney on first down. On second down, Fields threw a strike down the right sideline for St. Brown, but Greg Stroman ripped the ball out of the receiver’s hands.
But the Bears’ offense didn’t stall out.

On third-and-10, Fields ripped a laser over the middle to Kmet for a gain of 23, setting up a first-and-10 at the opposing 47.

After once again failing to connect with Mooney on first down, the Bears’ offense had just 17 seconds to get into field goal range. Fields got good protection in the pocket and delivered a strike to Tajae Sharpe for a gain of 9 to the 38.

Fields hurried to the line and was able to spike the ball with 1.5 seconds left to bring out Cairo Santos.

The offense succeeding in the move-it periods despite being down four receivers and three offensive linemen is a positive sign for Fields’ development.

“I thought he was good today,” head coach Matt Eberflus said after practice. “Operated the offense good. The ball was out on time. Justin is growing every single day. What’s great about a second-year quarterback in learning a new offense is you watch him grow, and you see him mature in the position, and man And the answers that he has in the meetings, with understanding what he’s doing, when he’s delivering the ball.

“It’s a little bit harder to assess because the pieces aren’t there, but he did a good job of modifying it and adjusting.”

Here are more notes from Day 9 of camp:

–Tackle Teven Jenkins returned to practice Saturday after missing the previous seven with a “day-to-day” injury. Jenkins wouldn’t “disclose” the nature of his injury or say if his back was healthy.
As for the trade rumors swirling around the young tackle, Jenkins was relatively evasive about his future in Chicago.

“Just in general, I’m here for the Chicago Bears right now,” Jenkins said. “I’m here to play football for the Chicago Bears and that’s what I’m going to do, and what I plan on doing right now.”

Jenkins did some light work in individual drills but didn’t participate in the competitive team portions. Eberflus said the Bears are “ramping” Jenkins up and expect him to do more over the next few days.

— Eberflus said Kyler Gordon and Velus Jones Jr. are “day-to-day” with their injuries. Pringle, however, has a quad injury that is more significant and could keep him out for a few weeks.

— Eberflus did not have an update on Harry when he met with the media.

–Braxton Jones is “day-to-day,” but Eberflus said that the fifth-round pick is fine.

— Cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley also missed practice Saturday. It’s the second straight practice Vildor has missed and the third consecutive for Shelley.

–Robert Quinn had an excused absence from camp Friday. He was back Saturday.

— Sixth-round pick Trestan Ebner has strung together two excellent practices in a row. He’s an explosive athlete who has made some nice cuts while working with the second team.

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