Bears training camp observations: Justin Fields shows growth without weapons

LAKE FOREST – It was an oppressively hot day at Bears training camp Saturday at Halas Hall. But one that provided 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 missed practice while N’Keal Harry suffered what appeared to be a serious foot/ankle injury in the first snap of team drills. Harry caught a screen pass from Fields but had his ankle rolled 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 change things up 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 run the Bears’ high-speed offense.
In their first “move the ball” session, the Bears’ offense started in the middle of the line.

Fields opened the drive 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 plays gave the Bears a third-and-3 from the 20-yard line.

The Bears ran the third down play well, but Fields overthrew a wide open Herbert down the left sideline and the offense had to settle for a field goal. One completion would have kept the device alive.

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

This operation was a little less clean.

Fields threw an incomplete deep to Darnell Mooney on the first down. On second down, Fields took a snap 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 slow down.

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 pocket protection and hit Tajae Sharp for a 9-for-38 gain.

Fields raced to the line and was able to inbound the ball with 1.5 seconds left to give Cairo Santos the lead.

The offense’s success in periods of motion, despite losing four receivers and three offensive linemen, is a positive sign for Fields’ development.

“I thought he was good today,” head coach Matt Eberfluss said after practice. “He controlled the attack well. The ball was out in time. Justin is growing every day. What’s great about a sophomore quarterback learning a new offense is you get to watch him grow and see him mature at the position, and man, that’s good to see. And the responses he has in meetings, understanding what he’s doing when he delivers the ball. This is exciting. It’s true.

“It’s a little harder to evaluate because the parts aren’t there, but he did a good job modifying it and fixing it.”

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 did not “disclose” the nature of his injury or say whether his back is healthy.
As for the trade rumors swirling around the youngster, Jenkins was relatively tight-lipped about his future in Chicago.

“Overall, 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 plan on doing right now.”

Jenkins did light work in individual practice, but did not participate in the competitive team portions. Eberfluss said the Bears are “stepping up” Jenkins 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. However, Pringle has a quad injury that is more serious and could keep him out for several weeks.

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

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

— Cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley also missed practice Saturday. This is the second practice in a row that Wildor has missed, and the third in a row for Shelley.

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

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

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