Caleb Williams struggles during early portion of Bears OTA’s

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Yes, it’s only May, but at Halas Hall Thursday, the Chicago Bears defense had a clear upper hand when it came to the performance of Bears rookie quarterback Caleb Williams.

Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, had a number of incompletions and near-interceptions in practice against Chicago’s first-string defense, but according to head coach Matt Eberflus, the ebbs and flows are expected, and his focus is on the daily growth of his rookie QB.

“This is [Williams’] first time going against a pro defense and [it’s] a pretty good one,” Eberflus said. “It’s going to be a learning [phase] for everybody. They’re getting everything together and it was progress. I saw progress from the first day to the second, second to the third so, it’s been good.”

Eberflus and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron have set expectations for Williams to be able to go through the entire Bears offense by offseason’s end.

With Williams facing a defense that finished the 2023 National Football League regular season 12th in total defense, it provides a tough test.

“We’re going to make it as hard on him as possible,” said new Bears safety Kevin Byard. “You know, going out there, showing some swag, talking trash and 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 going to be. I said something to him at the end of practice, ‘Keep it going. We’re going to keep making you better.’

“[I’m] not necessarily saying he had a terrible day, but it’s days like this that are going to make you better.”

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DJ Moore: We have to ‘Build that bond’

Eberflus named standout wide receiver DJ Moore as one of the hardest working players on the team Thursday, and he’s been front and center working with the Bears’ rookie quarterback and young wide receivers.

After practice, Moore said there’s a few factors motivating him to attend the voluntary portion of the offseason.

“$200,000 on the line, I want to be here and make that money,” Moore said with a smile. “Outside of that, we got to get the connection down with Caleb … The whole offense just wants to be around each other and build that bond.”

Notable Bears absent from Day 3 of OTA’s

Montez Sweat and Keenan Allen were missing for Chicago during Thursday’s practice, but Eberflus later told the media the entire Bears roster has been present for some point during the team’s offseason programming.

Elsewhere, rookie wide receiver Rome Odunze was also held out of practice as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury. Eberflus said he hopes the No. 9 overall selection in this year’s draft will continue to ramp up next week and make a return to practice.

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What’s next?

When it comes to NFL teams and offseason planning, there are three phases — Meetings, strength and conditioning, and physical rehabilitation take place in phase one, while individual and group drills take place in phase two, and then organized team practice activities (often called OTA’s) take place in phase three.

Chicago completed day three of phase three Thursday, with three more days of OTA’s set to take place on May 28-29 and May 31, before mandatory team minicamp takes place from June 4-6.

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