Caleb Williams' progress vs. Bears defense highlights things to watch in Week 2 of OTAs

Caleb Williams' progress vs. Bears defense highlights things to watch in Week 2 of OTAs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The second open media OTA practice of the offseason will take place Friday at Halas Hall, giving us a chance to see what reasonable progress looks like for rookie quarterback Caleb Williams and the 2024 Bears.

The first open media practice belonged to the defense as the Bears' vaunted secondary locked up a passing attack that was without wide receivers Keenan Allen (personal) and Rome Odunze (hamstring).

That rocky practice for Williams was a reminder of the patience required with even the most talented rookie quarterbacks.

All eyes will again be on Williams on Friday as he looks to continue taking necessary steps in his early development.

Here are a few things to watch for during Friday's open OTA practice:

What does progress look like?

The expectations will be high for Williams during his rookie season. He finds himself in arguably the best situation ever for a No. 1 pick in the modern era. The Bears are loaded at the skill positions, and new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has a sterling reputation in NFL circles for maximizing the talent at his disposal.

But before Williams can light up the NFL and start his ascent to stardom, he'll have to beat an ascending defense that is out to make his life hell every day in practice.

"Make it as hard on him as possible," safety Kevin Byard said after the first open media OTA. "Going out there showing some swag, talking trash, doing all that stuff because, at the end of the day, he’s going to have to lead us there. That’s kind of how it’s gonna be. I said something to him at the end of practice: Keep going, we’re gonna keep making you better.

"Not necessarily saying that he had a terrible day, but like days like this are gonna make you better. So that’s our job, and like I said, obviously, just the first three days of practice, he’s done a lot of positive things. He’s made some really great throws. Just coming in with that swag as a rookie quarterback, he doesn’t seem flustered by anything, so that’s exciting to see."

The Bears have been pleased with how Williams has responded to early learning moments on the practice field. The No. 1 overall pick has shown a quick ability to digest information and quickly correct his mistakes.

"You can see that the natural leadership is there, the natural arm talent is there," wide receiver DJ Moore said of Williams. "Everything about him, it’s just always a positive thing. Even when he has a bad play, he’s looking to learn real fast right after. That’s all you can ask of him, for him to quickly forget but also learn at the same time."

Head coach Matt Ebeflus said he and the staff have already seen "progress" from Williams during the offseason program. Friday will give us our first chance to see what that progress looks like on the back fields at Halas Hall.

Underrated offseason move

Running back D'Andre Swift was the lone bright spot from the offense's bumpy outing during the first open practice.

The Bears signed Swift at the opening bell of free agency, but the move quickly got washed away by the trade for Allen and the decision to deal quarterback Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But Swift should provide immense value to Williams and the Bears' offense.

We got a glimpse of that value during the first week of OTAs when Swift caught four passes from Williams on a variety of routes against the Bears' first-team defense. Swift notched a few receptions on arrow routes out of the backfield and made an excellent one-handed snag on a swing screen out to the left.

The addition of Swift could be vital for Williams' early development. The Georgia product should face a lot of light boxes due to the Bears' newfound depth at wide receiver, and his ability to be a threat as a pass catcher will give Williams a reliable outlet to pick up easy yards and keep the chains moving.

In an offseason of big moves, adding Swift has flown under the radar. But it's already clear he will play an essential role in this new-look offense.

Friday's session will give us another look at how the Bears might deploy their new feature back.

Key absences

A few key players were notably absent from the voluntary workout last Thursday.

Allen, right guard Nate Davis, right tackle Darnell Wright, wide receiver Velus Jones Jr., and defense end Montez Sweat were all absent for the open practice.

Eberflus said that attendance has been good and that all players have been in the building at some point during the offseason.

Defensive coordinator Eric Washington said he has been in contact with Sweat and that the star defensive end has been an "active participant."

With the Bears installing a new offense with multiple new pieces, including a rookie quarterback, it is vital to have all necessary members present as much as possible.

The offseason work might not be as critical for Allen, who Moore described as a "vet vet." But it's important for the starting offensive line to bank reps with Williams, especially as the rookie works tirelessly to perfect his cadence and fine-tune his ability to operate the offense from huddle to snap.

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