Observations at bear training camp: Justin Fields shows growth without weapons

LAKE FOREST — It was a sweltering day at Saturday’s Bears training camp at Halas Hall. But one that gave the Bears another opportunity to assess quarterback Justin Fields and his response to adversity.

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

On offense, guard Cody Whitehair and tackle Riley Reiff had veteran days, while rookie Braxton Jones saw very limited snaps after seemingly tweaking something during individual work.

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

Despite all the missing parts, Fields was able to run the Bears’ offensive at high speed.
In their first “Move the Ball” unit, the Bears started their offensive in midfield.

Fields opened the practice by hitting Cole Kmet in the tight end for a 12-yard gain. He found Equanimeous St. Brown on a slant with an 8 win on the next game.

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

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

In the second situational exercise, the Bears took over at their own 30, three 55 seconds back and no timeouts.

This operation was a little less clean.

Fields threw incompletely deep for Darnell Mooney on the first down. On the second descent, Fields threw a shot down the right touchline for St. Brown, but Greg Stroman snatched the ball out of the receiver’s hands.
But the bears’ offense was not lacking.

In third and tenth, Fields ripped a laser across the middle to Kmet for a 23 win and set up a first and tenth at the opposing 47.

After Mooney failed again on the first down, the Bears had just 17 seconds of offense to get within range of the field goal. Fields got good protection in the pocket and delivered a strike to Tajae Sharpe for a 9-38 win.

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

That the offense was successful in the move-it periods despite losing four receivers and three offensive linemen is a positive sign for Fields’ development.

“I liked him today,” said head coach Matt Eberflus after practice. “The offense ran well. The ball was out on time. Justin grows every day. The great thing about a sophomore quarterback learning a new offense is you watch him grow and you see him mature in the position, and man, that is good to see. And the answers he has in the meetings with the understanding of what he’s doing when he’s delivering the ball. That’s exciting. It really is.

“It’s a bit harder to judge because the parts aren’t there, but he’s done a good job of modifying and customizing it.”

Here are more notes from day 9 of camp:

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

“Basically, 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’m about to do right now.”

Jenkins did light work in individual exercises but did not participate in the competitive team portions. Eberflus said the Bears are “booting up” Jenkins and expect him to do more in the coming days.

– Eberflus said Kyler Gordon and Velus Jones Jr. are “everyday life” with their injuries. However, Pringle has a quad injury that is more serious and could sideline him for a few weeks.

— Eberflus had no news on Harry when meeting with the media.

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

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

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

– Sixth-round selection Trestan Ebner has lined up two excellent exercises in a row. He’s an explosive athlete who made some nice cuts while working with the second team.

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