Matt Eberflus wrapped up his first off-season program as Bears head coach on Thursday when the mandatory veteran minicamp wrapped up at Halas Hall.
Training camp will be the next time Eberflus get their hands on their young roster.
“Summer for these guys is going to be big, and the message I told them after practice is to come back lean, fit and strong,” Eberflus said Thursday after the mandatory minicamp final practice.
“Obviously I left them with, ‘Put on your running shoes,’ like I started my first press conference because we’re going to race once we get to training camp. Training camp isn’t not to get in shape. You should be in shape already. You should be ready to go to training camp because we blow and go from day one. That was my main message to them.
Bears rookies will return to Halas Hall on July 23, with veterans returning on July 26.
As the Bears head into summer vacation, here’s what we learned during their three-day minicamp.
So… the offense could be bad
After struggling through all three OTA sessions available to media, the Bears offense opened minicamp with a lackluster performance on Tuesday. Justin Fields was intercepted twice, including a pick six by Jaylon Johnson.
Fields came clean after the first day of camp, saying the offense still has a long way to go to be ready for Week 1.
It’s no surprise that Fields and the offense are still working through things. It’s a new system, and the Bears are still trying to find an offensive line combination that works. Sprinkle in an almost entirely new receiving corps, and you can see why the offense is still going through some growing pains.
But it might not be Fields’ fault
The Bears’ offense could very well struggle this fall, and it might have little to do with Fields.
The sophomore quarterback followed up a poor performance on Day 1 of minicamp with a clean outing on Day 2. Fields was precise and punctual while showing good command of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system.
On the final day of minicamp, Fields found both Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet for touchdowns during the red zone period. He was picked off by Thomas Graham Jr. during the “move the ball” session, but the pass was angled towards the line of scrimmage.
In the few glimpses we’ve had of Fields in Getsy’s system, it’s easy to see how the Bears offensive coordinator plans to maximize Fields’ strengths by getting him moving and pushing the ball downfield when the weather l ‘required.
If the Bears offense has its problems this season, it will likely be because of what Chicago has placed around Fields, not the No. 1 game.
No response on the offensive line
Eberflus was adamant the Bears planned to evenly split first-team representatives this offseason between their two rosters, one with Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins at tackle and the other with Borom and Jones as bookends.
Jones had to learn quickly by playing with some. Over the past seven weeks, the fifth-round pick has gotten better at throwing his hands. Still, Jones was whistled for several penalties during minicamp and appeared to slow the ball down at times.
Eberflus said staff get together after camp and discuss what they like and dislike about the offensive line groups they’ve tried. The Bears coach said nothing was out of order, including trying Jenkins at right guard.
Lucas Patrick (center) and Cody Whitehair (left guard) look ready, but the other three points are huge question marks as the Bears head into training camp.
With salary cap space to use, could the Bears choose to take a one-year flyer on a veteran tackle like Duane Brown or center JC Tretter?
Given how important this season is to Fields’ growth, it would seem unwise to drag him behind a line full of unknowns.
High school could be…well
Jaquan Brisker arrived and immediately made an impact. The second-round pick’s desire to play in the box should free up Eddie Jackson to return to free safety where he’s more comfortable.
Brisker and fellow rookie Kyler Gordon have impressed with their ability to take the ball this offseason. Although Gordon hasn’t attended minicamp, there’s no indication at this time that the rookie won’t be ready come September.
The Bears secondary was downright atrocious last season. However, during an offseason, Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles seem to have turned him into a force by adding Brisker and Gordon.
If Brisker and Gordon are healthy and as advertised, the Bears secondary should be among the best units on the team.
Robert Quinn’s absence has a significant impact
Quinn opted out of the mandatory minicamp as trade rumors swirl.
While Quinn’s absence means more reps for the likes of Dominique Robinson, it’s clear that Quinn’s loss, if his days in Chicago are over, will be felt across the defensive line.
If the Bears end up trading Quinn, Trevis Gipson goes from the No. 2 high-ceilinged pass rusher to the guys that opponents will be looking to shut down. Quinn’s departure will also put more pressure on Justin Jones to be more of a passing force. It could also force Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams to get more exotic with their pressures.
Quinn’s absence will also be felt on the other side of the ball during training camp. Regardless of who the two starting tackles are, having a top rusher in Quinn to tackle in training would be a big help for a young tackle group. Facing a true master like Quinn would provide several valuable teaching moments for Jones, Borom, and Jenkins.
If the Bears and Quinn part ways, it will leave a void the Bears can’t fill this season.