The Chicago Bears are making notable progress on both sides of the ball two weeks into training camp, looking to build momentum with their Week 1 clash against the Green Bay Packers a little more than a month away.
The Bears will hold three open practices this week at Halas Hall before hosting the Tennessee Titans in their preseason opener Saturday at Soldier Field.
The quest to establish an identity continues, and coach Matt Eberflus is looking to determine the team’s elite competitors.
The first 10 practices of camp have given players a chance to showcase their best skills. Here are five key traits of five Bears who have made an impression over the past two weeks.
DJ Moore’s body control
Moore’s final catch of a productive Family Fest practice Sunday came on a back-shoulder ball in the back of the end zone from Justin Fields, the latest example of the Bears’ top receiver remaining in sync with his young quarterback.
Moore set up the catch with the route he ran against safety Elijah Hicks, using his graceful ability to stop abruptly and snare a pass the defense had no chance to make a play on.
“A faith ball,” Moore said. “We were on the same page.”
Moore’s chemistry with Fields was almost instant when the duo began working together in the spring and has continued to grow.
During another encouraging sequence Sunday, Moore helped the first-team offense convert a third-and-long situation during 11-on-11 work when he sat down inside a zone coverage, caught a pass short of the sticks, then pivoted and split two defenders to pick up the first down.
“He’s quicker than I thought he was,” Eberflus said. “He really captures space well and creates separation.”
Early during organized team activities, Fields identified Moore’s quickness and balance as quarterback-friendly qualities and noted how Moore’s body language as a route runner enhances their timing and rapport.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, a receivers coach with the Green Bay Packers for two seasons early in his NFL coaching days, has grown to appreciate Moore’s special ability to break open through a combination of speed, strength and savvy.
“He’s such a powerful man,” Getsy said. “His play strength, balance and body control are his strengths for sure. And he has patience when the ball is in the air too. That is a talent I remember James Jones talking about all the time back (in Green Bay) — having the patience to let the ball come to you and not letting the DB know the ball is right there until it’s already caught.”
Moore clearly has been the most significant addition to the Bears roster in 2023 and may be the much-needed catalyst for a Fields breakthrough.
Jaquan Brisker’s passion
The second-year safety has been a spectator the last two practices, working through an undisclosed injury. But when Brisker has been on the field, his presence has been obvious.
On the whole, the Bears defense has been playing with an attention-getting competitive edge, with Brisker a leading tone setter. He has been flying around, making plays and letting everyone know about it at high volumes.
During the offseason, Brisker was vocal about his urge to expand his role. He is eager to help the defense in the box. He wants to use his range and ball-hawking instincts down the field as well. And he welcomes the opportunity to continue blitzing after leading the Bears with four sacks in 2022.
“They should use me,” Brisker said. “Like use me a lot. Like a bar of soap. Literally, like Dove. Use me. You know what I mean?”
Yes, we do. And defensive coordinator Alan Williams seems to also.
Brisker has an opportunity to emerge as an every-week impact playmaker. His energy and intensity have proved infectious in the early stages of camp.
“It’s crazy, man,” fellow safety Eddie Jackson said. “He’s so talented. And I feel like right now he’s light years ahead (of where he was). He’s flying around. He’s bringing energy. And he’s making the plays.
“He is doing everything you want him to do — and as a young guy at that.”
Darnell Wright’s recovery ability
At 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, Wright is an imposing presence. Pair that with his agility and explosion and it’s downright scary to see the physical gifts he brings to the field.
Veteran center Cody Whitehair has noted how nimble Wright is and how elegant his footwork is for a man that size.
Teammates on both the offensive and defensive lines also have noticed how Wright consistently uses his power and athleticism to regroup even when his technique isn’t right.
“That’s phenomenal the way he does it,” left guard Teven Jenkins said last week. “It’s just mind-blowing. I haven’t seen it in all my years of playing, the way he’s able to get into football positions after being all out of sorts.”
That’s a quality general manager Ryan Poles and the college scouting staff noticed when studying Wright’s tape from Tennessee. It’s a skill that will serve the rookie well as he acclimates to competing against elite NFL pass rushers.
Eberflus is challenging Wright to improve his mental stamina, to stay sharp for every play of a long drive and every period of a long practice. But overall the Bears have been pleased with how the first-round pick has started.
“He is exactly what we thought he was in terms of being an athlete,” Eberflus said. “If you watch his one-on-one pass rush (reps), he’s able to really set quickly, keep his balance, stay square to the line of scrimmage, not shoot his hands too early and be patient at the top.
“He can mirror and stay in front of guys. If (defenders) want to go on the outside, he can ride them by. If they want to try out-in-out or in-out-in, he does a great job of working them down toward the center, staying square and smashing them down that way.”
Justin Fields’ trust
Step by step, Fields is putting together an encouraging camp, improving his knowledge of the system and developing rapport with receivers, tight ends and running backs. The timing and rhythm of the passing game isn’t anywhere near where it will need to be, but things are moving in the right direction. And there has been regular evidence of Fields’ increasing comfort running the show.
Getsy has appreciated his next-level conversations with Fields about offensive concepts and specific plays. Fields is working to improve his consistency in getting the ball out quicker. The quest to improve his pocket presence is ongoing.
Still, Fields’ ability to make anticipatory throws with conviction demonstrates his trust in his offense, knowledge and pass catchers.
“You just see it,” Moore said. “He’s making checks on his own. He’s doing a lot of different things off script that they say he didn’t do last year. I’m seeing positives from him.”
Added Eberflus: “There’s a trust factor there. And I can see that growing and growing and growing. Guys are where they’re supposed to be. He knows that. He knows the rhythm and timing of that. And then (he’s reacting to) the adjustments off that.”
Tyrique Stevenson’s poise
The Bears traded up five spots in the second round of the NFL draft because they were so drawn to Stevenson’s coverage ability and ball skills. Since the spring, the rookie cornerback has continued to win over coaches and teammates with his confidence and fearlessness.
Stevenson has been tested often in the early stages of camp and occasionally been on the losing end of matchups against starting receivers Moore and Chase Claypool. But you would never know it by his demeanor.
Stevenson’s resilience and competitive spirit have been notable, complemented by his self-belief.
“He’s making plays all over the field,” Jackson said. “He is stepping up to the plate.”
Stevenson believes he has a chance to make a significant impact as a rookie starter for an improving defense. The Bears will continue challenging him to earn that leading role and have set up a competition with fellow rookie Terell Smith to see who emerges as the third starting corner to join Jaylon Johnson outside with Kyler Gordon at nickel back.
Stevenson remains the favorite. And while he still needs to progress through inevitable growing pains, Eberflus has been pleased with the way the rookie has used his length and strength to his advantage both at the line of scrimmage and when contesting catches.
All of that has come with mature composure.
“A lot of times rookies get to the point of no return where the ball is there and they’re there, but a lot of times they panic and grab and do all those types of things,” Eberflus said. “He doesn’t have that. He is very poised. He has really good ball skills.”