Advertisement

4 questions for Bears to answer during OTAs, offseason program

4 questions for Bears to answer during OTAs, offseason program originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears' offseason program hits the next phase Monday when Organized Team Activities (OTAs) begin at Halas Hall.

Head coach Matt Eberflus adjusted the offseason schedule due to the early start to training camp caused by the Bears' inclusion in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 1. As such, Eberflus elected to have two weeks of OTAs before hosting the three-day mandatory veteran minicamp on June 4-6. The Bears will host their third week of OTAs after the minicamp, but that will mainly be for the rookies and younger players to get more work in before the summer break.

Quarterback Caleb Williams got a soft launch into NFL life at rookie minicamp. Williams was accurate and precise during the two-day practice. He'll get a real introduction during OTAs and minicamp when he faces the majority of a Bears defense that was one of the best units in the NFL over the back half of last season.

With OTAs beginning Monday and the first media viewing session on Thursday, we will try to answer these questions before the Bears break for the summer.

Where is the Caleb Williams development plan at?

Eberflus and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said they have a detailed plan for their rookie quarterback to follow in the leadup to Week 1.

The first part of the plan will occur at OTAs and minicamp. Williams will get another part of the program for the summer break, and then things will ramp up when training camp begins.

Eberflus has said that most of the early part of the plan will be about Williams operating the offense and fine-tuning the cadence.

During rookie minicamp, the Bears dedicated an entire block of the first practice to cadence training. The Bears feel that Williams will need time to perfect it.

These next few weeks will also be the first time the media sees Williams throw live with DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, Rome Odunze, Cole Kmet, and Gerald Everett.

Williams has thrown off-campus with his receivers several times, but this will give an early gauge of the chemistry between Williams and his top targets. As is always the caveat with the offseason program, these are workouts done in shorts with no contact, so everything is taken with a grain of salt.

The Bears believe they have a methodical plan to develop Williams. The development launched without problem at rookie minicamp, but we'll learn more about the plan and where Williams is at in its progress over the next few weeks.

Early offensive clues?

During rookie minicamp, Waldron was asked about his experience using three wide receiver sets in Seattle and whether that time would help him craft the offense around Williams in Chicago.

Waldron arrived with the reputation of someone good at molding an offense to the strengths of his personnel, and his answer showed that this offense would continue to be a work in progress throughout the offseason program and into training camp.

"I think for us on offense, we want to be able to be multiple on offense," Waldron said. "And so with the addition of the wide receivers, having three receivers, two great established vets, we've got other young guys that are up and coming on the roster as well, it just allows us to continue to be multiple, allows us to on a week-by-week basis see what might be a matchup advantage or something that we can look to lean heavier towards. And with Cole and Gerald and the other tight ends and [Khari Blasingame] at fullback, we got a lot of different pieces that we can utilize.

"And so for us right now, this is the time of year where we're trying to figure out how is everyone going to carve out their individual role for this 2024 offense. And the more good players you can surround yourself with, the better you're going to be as a coach, obviously, so it's been a tremendous offseason of being able to do that and add different pieces, and then the guys that are returning, they're continuing to learn and grow and become better players as well. So it will be fun to have all these different players and figure out what their roles will be for the season."

The next few weeks won't give us the full picture of Waldron's offense, but they should at least give us the first puzzle pieces of Waldron's vision for the 2024 offense.

So, it's the Ryan Bates show at center?

The offseason program tells us very little about the offensive and defensive lines.

However, the one thing it can provide is a look at the depth chart.

Two years ago, Braxton Jones leapfrogged his way to the starting left tackle role during OTAs.

The Bears will enter OTAs with Ryan Bates, who is expected to be the starting center, and Coleman Shelton backing him up.

While the Bears are high on Bates, it will be instructive to see how they divvy up the reps and how much run Shelton gets with the projected first-team offensive line, if any.

Swift and ...?

The Bears added D'Andre Swift to lead their backfield this offseason.

Swift is coming off a 1,000-yard season for the Philadelphia Eagles and is expected to get the bulk of the work as the lead back in Chicago.

Khalil Herbert and second-year back Roschon Johnson will compete for the RB2 spot behind Swift.

Herbert was effective when healthy last season but struggled to regain his burst after an ankle injury in Week 5. Herbert's pass protection was an issue throughout the season.

Johnson rushed for 352 yards and two scores on 81 carries last season. The Bears like his physicality but need to see more from the rookie as a pass catcher and blocker.

OTAs will give us the first look at how the Bears split the reps between the backs and who is better suited to be RB2 behind Swift.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.