Bears’ offense struggling, but ‘there is an urgency to get it right’
This isn’t Mitch Trubisky being tormented by Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. This is Justin Fields facing a watered-down defense without its leader and best player, Roquan Smith. And it has happened on consecutive days.
It’s hard to pick which part of practice Tuesday was more concerning.
One moment, Bears quarterback Justin Fields had N’Keal Harry wide open in the back right corner of the end zone — only to throw the ball over the head of the 6-4 receiver. Two plays later, Fields found Harry for a touchdown in the same corner, but the offense had committed a false start during the seven-on-seven drill.
Another moment, the Bears struggled in separate two-minute drills. Fields’ only completion was a three-yard shovel pass that he flicked when other receivers were covered and the pass rush was, all too familiarly, bearing down on him. After the shovel, Fields tried to throw up the seam to tight end Cole Kmet but hit linebacker Nicholas Morrow, who was in coverage, in the back.
This isn’t Mitch Trubisky being tormented by Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. This is Fields facing a watered-down defense without its leader and best player, Roquan Smith. And it has happened on consecutive days.
On Monday, in shorts, the Bears turned a two-minute drill into a mess. On Tuesday, they weren’t much better. But if two is a coincidence and three is a pattern, the prospects for Wednesday are frightening.
The Bears did not make coach Matt Eberflus or Fields available after practice — they were never scheduled to speak — so that left backup quarterback Trevor Siemian to explain the offense’s sloppiness.
“There is an urgency to get it right,” he said. “You got to keep that at the forefront of your mind. You don’t want to say, ‘Hey, that’s OK. We’ll get it next time.’ It’s just a balance.”
Padded practices are better bellwethers, he said, and it was the Bears’ first. It wasn’t all bad — the offense was efficient in most of its short-yardage plays.
Siemian has been on teams with great offenses (2020 Titans: second in yards and fourth in points) and awful offenses (2019 Jets: 31st and 32nd). He was asked when he has typically known what his offense would look like. His answer: 5½ weeks from now in Week 1.
“I think you get a feel for it during the preseason, but you don’t get enough live reps, meaningful reps with the guys that are going to be playing,” he said. “Until that final roster is set, I would say you kind of have an idea what you’re leaning toward going through camp. But when it’s Week 1 and all the reps matter and it’s for real, then you know.”
What the Bears know now is how much work they have to do. Fields knows that, though it doesn’t make the early returns look any better.
“[Fields is] a confident guy, he’s got great resolve and obviously he’s physically gifted,” Siemian said. “I’ve had a lot of fun watching him develop and seeing him make strides. Justin, myself — nobody’s a finished product right now.”
It’s early, and growing pains were expected. New coordinator Luke Getsy is still installing parts of his offense. The Bears have been trotting out a makeshift offensive line, trying to cover for Lucas Patrick’s broken thumb, Teven Jenkins’ absence and the ramping up in activity by two veterans, Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield. Linemen — and receivers, too — have been committing false starts as they adjust to the cadences of the new system.
“I’m kinda trying to clue in to the cadences as much as I can, and some of them come from just trying to jump it and being as quick as possible off the ball,” said rookie Braxton Jones, who played left tackle with the starters. “And some of them are just mishaps that we gotta clean up. They can’t be a thing anymore, especially for the young guys.”
That applies to a lot of the Bears’ offense.