LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears center Lucas Patrick, who spent his previous five seasons with the Green Bay Packers, had high expectations for quarterback Justin Fields when Patrick signed with Chicago as a free agent.
Those expectations have met reality during OTAs in May.
“Fast. He can get moving pretty quick,” Patrick said. “He’s got a live arm. I mean, there were a few throws he made where that ball -- it’s like it keeps getting faster in the air.
“He’s soaking everything up. Whether it’s coaches, me, or stuff he’s telling me, it’s really good. He’s really talented. ... He is exceeding my expectations.”
The Bears conclude OTAs next week before ending their offseason program with mandatory minicamp June 14-16. It’s early, but as offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, formerly a Packers assistant, installs his scheme, evaluations are starting to take shape.
‘Justin’s on the move a lot’
Getsy said the Bears would have “a quarterback-driven offense” predicated on what Fields does well. Chicago’s offense is expected to lean heavily on the running game and put Fields in a better position to make plays off play-action and bootlegs.
“I don't want to get too much in detail with it, but Justin’s on the move a lot, and I think he does well with that,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “That’s been exciting to see, and you see the types of throws he can make with his legs and on the run and off-schedule.”
Early signs point to a solid relationship being built between Getsy and Fields.
“No question,” first-year head coach Matt Eberflus said. “You can sense a connection throughout the whole room. I think it’s a work in progress just like the rest of the rooms are, but we are pleasantly surprised where it is right now.”
Getsy said Fields is “ahead of pace” in picking up the offense.
“We have to be on the same page, always,” Getsy said. “That’s where I feel like he’s grown, is communicating with me so well now, things that he’s feelings, things that he sees and so that part of it has just been tremendous for a young guy to be able to do that.”
‘Efficient and compact’
During minicamp in April, Fields said he was changing the mechanics of how he drops back to pass, keeping his left foot forward in the shotgun. The thinking is it helps with his timing and rhythm. There’s also been an effort to shorten Fields’ throwing motion.
“We’re always just trying to be efficient and compact,” quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said. “Everything starts with our feet and building it from the ground up. And then from there just being compact and allowing him to have the best release possible from the ground up, from the waist up, with his base and all that.”
Bears coaches also have emphasized ball security with Fields, whose 12 fumbles (five of which he lost) were the most by a rookie last season.
Montgomery & Co. could ‘open up’ things for Fields
Running back David Montgomery enters his fourth season in Chicago, and it’s a contract year. He rushed for 849 yards and seven TDs in 13 games last season. The Bears return fellow back Khalil Herbert, added fullback Khari Blasingame and drafted Trestan Ebner in the sixth round. With a handful of unknowns among the Bears receivers, opportunities for someone like Montgomery to take on a bigger role is a possibility.
The Bears finished 14th in rushing last season, and despite their inconsistency, Chicago sees an opportunity to help remove some of the burden off Fields.
“Justin will be a much better quarterback if we can be productive running the football,” running backs coach David Walker said. “That’s going to open up a lot of stuff for him.”
‘A big difference’ on the offensive line
At the NFL combine, general manager Ryan Poles said the Bears needed to change body types, get lighter and quicker up front to effectively run a zone-blocking scheme.
Teven Jenkins, who has moved from left to right tackle, the position he played in college, said he’s slimmed down to 325 pounds after being at his heaviest of 345 last season. He credits Pilates and cutting out carbs and beer.
“It is a big difference,” Jenkins said of the scheme. “It’s a lot faster pace, a lot more up-tempo, getting around, setting edges, all that stuff. How that affects you is you got to slim down a little bit more, get faster, speeding up in certain areas.”
Jenkins isn’t the only player on the move. Larry Borom has held down the left tackle spot this spring while Sam Mustipher has gotten reps at right guard this spring after playing 1,121 snaps at center in 2021.
Kmet’s stock is rising
Chicago’s receiver room has one player who boasts a 1,000-yard receiving season in Darnell Mooney. The rest -- Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones Jr., Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis -- have much to prove.
Kmet’s potential to become one of Fields’ top two pass-catchers is a storyline to watch. He started all 17 games in 2021 and caught 60 passes for 612 yards. The targets that went to Jimmy Graham, who is no longer with the team, should find their way to Kmet, especially in the red zone.
Getsy saw the value in targeting a tight end in the red zone in 2020 when Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan caught 11 touchdown passes, tied for fifth-most in the league. Of course, he had Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, but still, it was an effective game plan.
"I've been very impressed with Cole," Getsy said. "Just the ability, the flexibility as a player, I think he has all that stuff. So I'm excited to see him have a bunch of different roles in our offense.
“Some players that are out there, they're kind of like this is what they do well. But I think the more guys that you can get in a system that can do a bunch of different things, the more success you're going to have, and I think Cole is one of those guys."