LAKE FOREST – The Bears wrapped up their three-day rookie minicamp Sunday. The highlight, of course, was the first look at rookie quarterback Justin Fields. But there was plenty more to learn besides how Fields looks in a Bears practice jersey.
Here are the major takeaways from the weekend. The Bears next return to the practice field June 1 for organized team activities (OTAs).
1. The focus for Fields is on the pre-snap process
The objective at rookie minicamp is about installing the offense and defense. The vast majority of practice time is spent familiarizing the players with the scheme. It can be quite detailed.
The goal for Fields is to retain everything his coaches throw at him. So much of football is played mentally, before the snap. Fields spent his Friday night on call with head coach Matt Nagy, long after practice had ended.
“We were talking late [Friday] night about what it means to when you call a play and you walk in that huddle,” Nagy said. “Are you speaking to the guys in the huddle or are you just reading a play? Because when you get in there and you have voice inflection and you’re talking to the Z receiver and telling him his route, you’re talking to the line and talking about their protection, and you’re talking about motions, and then by the way, you break the huddle and you’re looking at the play clock – are you doing all of that together? Every day that he gets out there, it’ll get better and better.”
2. The QB conversation will be fascinating
Fields and Andy Dalton couldn’t be any more different. Fields brings a dual-threat ability to the table that Dalton simply doesn’t possess. Tall, muscular and quick, Fields looks like he could play receiver and compete for a starting spot.
Here’s the kicker: They’re both joining a new team and learning a new playbook. The Bears are banking on Dalton’s experience. But it’s within the realm of possibility that Fields could outperform Dalton come training camp. What happens then?
Nagy reiterated Sunday that Dalton is the starter and will be repping with the first-team offense.
“When you up to draft a quarterback like Justin, everyone’s very excited and they want to know: When, when, when?” Nagy said. “And trust me, we all understand that, but we need to make sure that whatever that plan is that we put together, that it’s the best thing for the Chicago Bears.”
The Bears are keeping their plan under wraps. All they’ve said is that they’ll know when Fields is ready.
3. Nobody has faced adversity yet
For the rookies who expect to vie for playing time, the competition – while ever present – hasn’t truly begun yet. An NFL coach will never say that, but it doesn’t really start until the veterans are back at practice.
Nobody has seen Fields and Andy Dalton side-by-side. Rookie tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom haven’t faced Khalil Mack yet.
There’s only so much to learn from rookie minicamp, especially this year. With only 33 players at rookie minicamp, it’s hard to field a full 11-on-11. Assistant defensive backs coach Mike Adams, who played 16 seasons at safety in the NFL as recently as 2019, had to fill in at defensive back during 7-on-7s.
“He was out there killing the post,” rookie cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. said. “He got a couple of blitzes in there too. It was good to be able to actually play with a person who has played in the league for 17 years, and I want to be in that position one day.”
4. Dazz Newsome has a personality fans will love
During his media session, rookie receiver Dazz Newsome asked each reporter to give a Chicago-area restaurant recommendation before asking their question.
This is a young man who’s comfortable in his own skin and knows how to win over a room. He has exhibited an early connection with Fields, too. The 22-year-old Virginia native has only just started familiarizing himself with the midwest.
“It’s crazy they don’t have a Waffle House down here,” Newsome said. “I thought Waffle House was global. Where do you go when it’s 24 hours and you all want food at 3 in the morning?”
His coaches would probably prefer he doesn’t stay out that late.
5. Herbert, Newsome could be in the mix at kick return
Newsome and rookie running back Khalil Herbert caught kick offs from the JUGS machine Saturday. Undrafted rookie running back CJ Marable and veteran tryout Chris Lacy did as well.
Saturday’s practice had a long special teams segment led by special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. Replacing Cordarrelle Patterson on kick return has to be a priority.
Herbert averaged 23.5 yards per kick return in college.
“Kick return is something I pride myself on and I know it can effect the game to start out drives and and help the offense to get field position,” Herbert said. “So it’s something I’ve been talking to coach [Tabor] about. I feel like I’ll be able to help the team out in that way.”
6. Jenkins, Borom look the part
Side-by-side, not much separates rookie tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. Fifth-round draft pick Borom (6-foot-5, 322 pounds) is every bit as big as second-round pick Jenkins (6-foot-6, 317 pounds).
The Bears signaled what they thought of Jenkins when they traded up for him in the draft, but Borom could be a sneaky find in the fifth round. In a perfect world, they might be the Bears starting tackles come 2022.
Borom was up near 350 pounds last season at Missouri. He cut down to 322, a weight that offensive line coach Juan Castillo called “skinny.” Castillo wants Borom to add another 10 pounds by the season.
“I feel really good, I feel light on my feet, I feel like a totally different player,” Borom said.