5 things we heard from Chicago Bears offensive assistants, including the shuffle on the line and a backfield by committee

As the Chicago Bears attempt to get their offense regular-season ready, they’ve run into a few August detours.

Specifically, health issues on the offensive line have created some unwanted reshuffling at an inopportune time entering the preseason finale Saturday against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.

Coming off a season in which they had the league’s No. 1 rushing offense, its worst passing attack and the 23rd-highest scoring production, the Bears have vowed to be a more balanced and dangerous offense in 2023.

Assistant coaches met with reporters Wednesday morning at Halas Hall for a progress report. Here are five things we learned.

1. The Bears are shuffling to find ‘the best five’ after a rash of offensive line injuries.

A big storyline at the beginning of training camp was how the line would benefit from the continuity of having five set starters since May. But a flood of absences has disrupted that narrative.

Left guard Teven Jenkins is week to week with a leg injury. Right guard Nate Davis has missed much of camp with an undisclosed issue. Right tackle Darnell Wright stood on the sideline Wednesday with his right ankle wrapped. And center/guard Cody Whitehair is playing through an injury to his right hand.

That leaves only left tackle Braxton Jones in his original position, while key backup Lucas Patrick has been in and out as he ramps up.

Offensive line coach Chris Morgan didn’t give a direct answer when asked whether Whitehair’s hand injury prompted the Bears to move him from center to left guard to replace Jenkins and bring in Doug Kramer or Patrick at center. But he did say the Bears feel “lucky” to have a player like Whitehair who can excel at multiple positions.

“You’ve got a guy who is versatile, experienced and tough, and you’ve got a guy who is willing to do whatever for the team,” Morgan said. “We’re always going to find a way to play the best five that give us a chance to succeed.

“How do you get the best five out there to communicate? How do you get the best five out there to produce? And that’s the decision we go with, and the other guys are ready to go. It changes every day.”

As for replacing Wright for however long he’s out, Morgan said he is “comfortable” with the options, led by Larry Borom, who started 17 games over the last two seasons.

“We’re ready to go,” Morgan said. “We believe in all the guys here. Larry has played a lot of football. (Aviante Collins) has played football. Kellen Diesch is developing. Bobby Haskins, all the guys, comfortable.”

2. The value of last week’s crossover practices with the Indianapolis Colts continues to resonate.

While the Bears have chosen to play quarterback Justin Fields and other healthy starters against the Bills, they also were comfortable with the work Fields and the first-unit offense got during two practices with the Colts.

“That was like two mini-games,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Wednesday.

The volume of situation-specific reps Fields was able to bank was significant after he took only seven snaps with three passing attempts — all thrown behind the line of scrimmage — against the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago. Fields completed all three of those throws for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

When the Sept. 10 opener against the Green Bay Packers arrives, Fields’ growth and production will be put to an eye test. Getsy was asked what he will be zeroing in on to measure his quarterback’s progress.

“Playing that position, it’s important that you’re in control,” Getsy said. “And what that means is you’re taking care of the football. You’re not getting surprised by anything. And if you do, then how do you respond to those things that did surprise you?

“Then if you’re able to respond in the way that not necessarily wins the game for you but doesn’t lose the game, you know you’ve prepared somebody for that opportunity.”

3. Quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko has gained confidence in Justin Fields’ ‘overall awareness’ of what the offense is trying to do and how defenses are trying to stop it.

That comfort comes from Fields having been in Getsy’s system for more than a year now.

Janocko said it has shown up by Fields “just getting everyone on the same page, being able to get into good plays and out of bad plays. Redirect things when needed. Sometimes bad plays happen, and we don’t want to make that bad play worse.”

Janocko said Fields’ checklist 17 days from the opener is the same as it has been all summer.

“His timing, his rhythm, his movement within the offense and being able to push the ball downfield with accuracy,” Janocko said. “That is everything we’ve said since the beginning. We’re just going to keep building.”

4. DJ Moore’s consistent ability to separate has been one of the highlights of training camp.

Moore has been everything the Bears thought they were getting and more when they traded the No. 1 draft pick to the Carolina Panthers for the veteran wide receiver plus a package of picks. Moore’s chemistry with Fields solidified almost instantly, and he has been an every-practice producer over the past month.

Fields has praised Moore for his body language that is easy for a quarterback to read. Defensive backs, meanwhile, have been frustrated by his elite body control and ability to mask his intentions on routes for as long as possible.

Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert took a stab at describing Moore’s special route-running qualities and why they are important to Fields.

“It’s just repetition, those guys working together in the spring and the summer and Justin having a feel on when DJ’s about to do something,” Tolbert said. “Obviously, Justin knows the play. So he knows when (Moore is) about to break. That helps too. And the defensive back does not know that. But it’s just being consistent with your body language.

“I talk about posture all the time. It’s like when you’re driving a car. I tell guys, ‘Don’t turn your blinker on.’ What does that mean? If I turn my blinker on and I’m turning right, everybody sees me turning right. So there are certain blinkers for wide receivers.

“If you show this tip (and lean right), that’s a blinker that you’re about to turn right. If your pads raise up, that’s a blinker that you’re getting ready to stop. If you’re looking at the ground, that’s a blinker that you’re getting ready to stop. And that’s why DBs have a hard time reading DJ. Because he doesn’t turn on very many blinkers.”

5. The Bears are set on using a backfield by committee.

One of the biggest decisions general manager Ryan Poles will face early next week is deciding how many running backs to keep on the initial 53-man roster. Don’t be surprised if the Bears keep five: Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer and fullback Khari Blasingame.

The Bears feel great about their depth and versatility at the position. Blasingame provides Getsy with a valuable chess piece for his offense. Homer is an established special teams standout. And Herbert, Foreman and Johnson figure to share touches in a rotation.

“Every guy has shown their ability to make plays and help the team,” running backs coach David Walker said. “We’re going to be able to put a solid group out there.”

Walker emphasized the value of having a deep room of backs who can share the workload as a committee.

Saquon Barkley doesn’t wear a Chicago Bear helmet. Josh Jacobs doesn’t wear a Chicago Bear helmet,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good players. Those guys all complement one another. And they all will have roles within the room as we move forward.”

Johnson, the fourth-round pick out of Texas, continues to get increased opportunities with Bears coaches holding nothing back in their belief in his long-term potential.

“There were certain things we thought we knew about him through the evaluation process,” Walker said. “And those things have shown up on our fields as well. … Probably the best thing he has done has been his attention to detail in terms of the playbook, in terms of the little coaching points we put on certain plays. He has been right on top of that stuff. That’s good to see from a young guy.”