Caleb Williams faces ups and downs of minicamp as Bears defense looks to be elite

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — In the span of two plays at Chicago Bears minicamp Wednesday, Caleb Williams went from being picked off by Tremaine Edmunds, to throwing a deep touchdown pass to Velus Jones Jr — An illustration of the continued ups and downs of life as a rookie quarterback in June minicamp practices.

But those ups and downs should come with the added caveat that Williams, the new golden goose of Bears football, is dueling against a defense that was Top 15 in the NFL last year in total yards allowed, and tied for the league lead in team interceptions (22).

“It’s intimidating for other people,” said Kyler Gordon. “People constantly getting hit, constantly running to the ball, all different hats [are] loud, people communicating loud … I love it.”

With veteran safety Kevin Byard being the lone addition to Chicago’s secondary this offseason, the hope is to hit the ground running with the goal of taking that next step toward being a truly elite defense in the NFL.

“It’s a lot of energy out there for us to have,” said Jaylon Johnson. “I definitely think we can take it up a few notches this year and we’re going to have a good offense to go against to make us better.”

After signing a four-year/$76 million contract extension back in early March, being the best cornerback in football is all the motivation Johnson said he needs heading into next season to ensure he that title can be earned.

“I feel like for me, I’m on a different level mentally,” Johnson said. “Then I feel like the consistency part just comes with honing in on my technique, and that’s something I take extreme pride in.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson had the highest coverage grade (91.0) and defensive grade (90.8) among NFL cornerbacks last year, while also giving up the fewest receiving yards among corners who were the primary defender on pass plays (195) in the NFL.

For his performance, Johnson was named second team All-Pro by the Associated Press in 2023.

‘Kind of tough to answer’: Keenan Allen talks contract, Caleb Williams, Bears defense and driving in the snow

Injury absences at minicamp and contract talks

Cole Kmet and Braxton Jones were held out of Wednesday’s practice for precautionary reasons ahead of the Bears’ summer conditioning program, according to head coach Matt Eberflus.

Teven Jenkins, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, said his representation has reached out to Chicago general manager Ryan Poles about a possible contract extension, but nothing is on the table at this point in the year.

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