LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Justin Fields and (most of) the 2023 Bears took the field this week at Halas Hall as Phase III of the offseason program gets underway.
Tuesday's practice had a lot of half-speed run game work as the Bears build things from the ground up.
When the Bears did work on their passing game, Fields' connection with new star wide receiver DJ Moore was prominently featured. Fields connected with Moore five times over the course of four separate sessions, including a 45-yard (ish) strike during a two-minute drill at the end of practice.
Moore beat cornerback Kindle Vildor with a double move down the sideline, and Fields hit him in stride to get the offense into the red zone.
"It was a little bit more than yesterday," Fields said when asked if Tuesday's connections with Moore were typical in these early stages. "I feel like the plays we had in yesterday, most of them weren’t going to him. So we had a lot of one-on-one backside stuff to him, so that was good to get on that same page. Even if we do have a concept — front side and then one-on-one backside I’m gonna, of course, work him more just to get those reps in right now. So when the season rolls around, we’re on the same page, and we have that connection going."
With starting cornerback Jaylon Johnson not in attendance and rookie Tyrique Stevenson still working his way up the depth chart, Moore spent most of Tuesday's practice going up against Vildor, Jaylon Jones, Michael Ojemudia, and Greg Stroman Jr.
While Moore had the upper hand for most of the day, two quick hitch routes were almost picked off, with Ojemudia and Stroman each jumping the route and batting the ball away.
Other than that, it was a good day for the Moore-Fields connection.
On one rep, Moore used his speed to quickly create separation on a quick slant. Fields put it on the numbers, and Moore quickly juked Stevenson before scampering for a solid gain.
Fields and Moore will continue to build their chemistry over the next month. Moore plans to optimize everything by the time the Bears break for the summer.
"How long?" Moore said when asked about creating a good relationship with Fields. "I want to say probably to the end of OTA and through minicamp and then starting back up, you know you got that break, and then you gotta start it all over again. Going into training camp, probably about two to three days to get back on track where we ended in OTAs."
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Here are more notes from the first media viewing session of OTAs:
-- Cornerback Jaylon Johnson, right guard Nate Davis, safety Eddie Jackson, and wide receiver Darnell Mooney were not in attendance Tuesday. The workouts are voluntary. Jackson and Mooney both are rehabbing from season-ending injuries suffered in the Bears' Week 12 loss to the New York Jets last season.
Head coach Matt Eberflus gave a positive update on their path back to the field.
"They’re progressing," Eberflus said. "All I can say is that they’re progressing right along where they’re supposed to be and it’s all positive and we expect them back soon. When they’re back, they’re back."
Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Despite the cornerback's absence, Eberflus doesn't expect it to be a precursor to a contract holdout.
"I don't see it that way," Eberflus said.
-- On the field, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds had the play of the day for the defense. The Bears' big-ticket free agent picked off backup quarterback P.J. Walker during the two-minute drill and took it back for a significant return that ended with the defense celebrating in the opposite end zone.
-- Tight end Cole Kmet had a few nice catches Tuesday, including a strike down the seam from Fields to close one of the 11-on-11 drills.
-- For the most part, Fields was accurate Tuesday when the Bears elected to throw. But he did have two noteworthy misses. Fields sailed a throw high and wide to Chase Claypool on a quick out to the left and slightly overthrew rookie Tyler Scott on a deep go ball later in practice.
-- Claypool snagged a couple of passes over the middle and was praised for his offseason work ethic and positive attitude by both Eberflus and Fields.
-- With Davis absent, Ja'Tyre Carter got the right guard snaps with the first team. Lucas Patrick also rotated in while Teven Jenkins and Cody Whitehair manned left guard and center, respectively.
-- Running back D'Onta Foreman dropped a pass, leading to some OTA push-ups.
-- Stroman stripped tight end Jake Tonges, leading to a recovery for rookie Noah Sewell.
-- It's almost pointless to gauge line play without pads on, but rookie Gervon Dexter and defensive end DeMarcus Walker had a few nice reps during 11-on-11, including Walker blowing by left guard Alex Leatherwood for what would have been a surefire sack.
-- The next media viewing session will occur on Wednesday, May 31.