LAKE FOREST – Wednesday was a new day at Halas Hall. After a day in which the Bears' offense looked particularly inept in the two-minute drill, Justin Fields and Co. were much better in both the "move the ball" period and the end of half two-minute drill.
The offense was given the ball at their own 45-yard line and asked to move the chains against the first-string defense. The offense opened with a 3-yard David Montgomery run before Fields threw low and incomplete for N'Keal Harry over the middle.
Facing a third-and-7(ish), Fields threaded a bullet to tight end Cole Kmet in between two defenders for a gain of around 17. After using a timeout due to the play clock ticking down, Fields stepped up and delivered a sidearm laser to Equanimeous St. Brown for 17 yards.
Two plays later, Fields hit St. Brown again, but linebacker Joe Thomas jarred the ball loose. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson picked the ball up and ran the other way. That should have ended the drill, but it's training camp, so the offense kept the ball.
On first-and-10 from the 16-yard line, Fields faked the handoff to Khalil Herbert and bootlegged back to the left. He had Kmet breaking open but threw high and out of reach of the tight end. Herbert picked up 4 yards on a second down run, and then Fields hit him for 5 on a check down to set up fourth-and-1 at the 5-yard line.
There was no question who he was going to. Darnell Mooney broke inside and then out, and Fields hit his favorite target at the pylon for a touchdown.
"Timing and reps at it," Fields said of the connection to Mooney. "That's a play we've had in since OTAs, so we get extra reps with that play as quarterbacks just the roll out play and just stuff like that. So that's just timing and reps so that was kind of a pitch and catch, like you say, kind of easy."
A semi-successful move-the-ball period (fumble notwithstanding) was a positive sign.
Then, came the end-of-half drill to close Wednesday's session.
The offense took over around its own 35-yard line with the game tied at seven and 1:20 left on the clock.
Fields threw a rope to Kmet for a chunk gain over the middle on first down.
An incompletion to Harry and a sack put the offense in third-and-long. Given time to throw, Fields stepped up in the pocket and zipped a laser to Harry, who made a nice catch over the middle to move the chains.
On the ensuing play, Justin Jones blew past Ja'Tyre Carter for what would have been a sure sack. But the refs let Fields roll out and dump it off to Herbert for a short gain that forced the offense to use its lone timeout.
With 19 seconds left in the half, Fields hit Montgomery over the middle on an angle route. The running back immediately went down at the 25-yard line, allowing the offense to spike the ball with three seconds remaining. Cairo Santos nailed the field goal to put the three points on the board.
While the Bears' offense still has much to clean up, Wednesday was a sign of progress. Head coach Matt Eberflus lauded a "cleaner operation" with fewer pre-snap penalties and alignment issues than previous days.
Wednesday was a positive for the Bears' offense. That's needed for a young group learning a new system.
The next step is for the offense to stack good practices with another positive showing Friday.
Here are more notes from Day 7 of training camp:
-- In another 11-on-11 period, Fields went 5-for-9, which included a beautiful pass to St. Brown on a corner route.
Fields also hit Mooney in the flat on what appeared to be a hot read. The receiver caught the pass, juked safety Eddie Jackson, and scampered for a 20-yard gain. Later on in the period, Fields evaded pressure and flipped the ball to Harry for a nice improvisational gain.
It wasn't all good for Fields, though. He almost had a pass picked off by Kyler Gordon and allowed Jaquan Brisker to break up a pass to Kmet with a throw behind the tight end.
-- The Bears' offensive line continues to be a work in progress, but it appears rookie Braxton Jones is starting to take hold of the left tackle job. Jones took all the first-team reps at left tackle alongside Cody Whitehair. Sam Mustipher and Doug Kramer rotated at center, while Michael Schofield and Carter shuffled in and out at right guard. Riley Reiff got the majority of first-team reps at right tackle, although Larry Borom did see some action.
It's becoming apparent the Bears are very high on Jones.
"He's just absorbed all the information in executing," Eberflus said of Jones. "He's done that and he's showing that it's not too big for him. When you come in as a rookie sometimes the spots are big and not to say that he's been perfect because he's a rookie and he's had his moments, but he's doing a good job. We like where he is, we like where he's progressing, and he's got a long way to go but we like where he's at."
-- As the Bears search for the right cornerback combination, it's looking like Gordon will see more time inside with Kindle Vildor on the outside. Eberflus praised Vildor's competitiveness but wants to see the corner exhibit the same physicality once the Bears start live drills with full tackling.
-- Mooney continues to shine. During individual drills, he scorched Gordon for a long touchdown, then came back and beat Tavon Young for another score.
-- Equanimeous St. Brown had his best practice of training camp. He made several nice catches in team drills and clearly is gelling with Fields.
-- Eberflus announced after practice that the first-string players would see a "good amount" of playing time during the Bears' first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.