LAKE FOREST – The pads went on Tuesday at Halas Hall, and the intensity ramped up.
Unfortunately for the Bears' offense, the addition of pads didn't correlate to crisper execution.
But let's start with the good.
The Bears' offense fared well during a goal-line drill in which it was given the ball inside the 5-yard line. After a snap issue and a false start to begin the drill, the Bears' offense scored on almost every remaining rep, showcasing different run game wrinkles with quarterback Justin Fields.
Using Fields' legs in the red zone with the help of an extra blocker should prove effective for this offense.
That goal-line drill is where the good vibes for the offense ended, though.
Toward the end of practice, the Bears' offense was given the ball down by six with 1:20 left and the ball on their own 20-yard line.
Fields was flushed from the pocket on the first play and forced to pitch it out of bounds in the direction of Khalil Herbert to avoid a loss. Then, on second-and-10, Fields was pressured again but took off up the middle for a gain of 8 yards. The Bears' offense couldn't pick up the first down, however, as Fields was sacked on third-and-2 by the combination of Justin Jones and Al-Quadin Muhammad.
The Bears punted on fourth down and rebooted the drill at the opposite 20-yard line. But the results were the same.
Fields dumped the ball off to Herbert for 3 yards on first down. The protection held up nicely on second down, but Fields' throw over the middle ticketed for Cole Kmet hit linebacker Nicholas Morrow in the back. Kmet was well covered, so a completion would have been difficult. On third-and-7, Fields had Darnell Mooney breaking open down the left side, but the throw was a bit long and fell incomplete. Safety Eddie Jackson had good coverage on the play, but a precise throw likely would have moved the chains.
Two things can be true: the offense continues to be sloppy and disjointed while the defense makes the plays to shut them down.
"We ain't lost a day yet, if you ask me," cornerback Jaylon Johnson said after practice Tuesday. "S—t, I don't know. We be busting them. I don't know. We just bring the juice. The offense, I mean, they are going to score. It's hard because there ain't no true sacks or anything like that. So, I mean, they get happy after they score a touchdown after a sack. But it is what it is."
To be fair, it's Aug. 2, and this was the first padded practice for the Bears running their new offense. Issues with cadence and timing should be expected, given the number of new pieces on the unit. Fields also continues to work behind a make-shift offensive line and with a rotating cast of receivers.
The Bears don't expect the offense to start looking like a finished product for quite some time.
"You're challenging guys and we've got new guys mixing in and out," backup quarterback Trevor Siemian said. "The personnel groupings aren't fine-tuned, really where they're going to be when we start going live bullets. It'll be interesting to see how it comes together and then when you get down to the nitty gritty, it's what guys can handle and what we're good at."
While all that is true, Week 1 is 40 days away, and the Bears' offense still appears to be in Phase 1 of an install. That's concerning.
But the Bears' defense is happy to rack up as many training camp victories as possible.
"I'm trying to win," Johnson said. "I'm trying to whoop their ass every chance I get, and I feel like they need that. I mean, we all need that. We all want to go against each other. We all want to compete and that's how we get better at the end of the day."
It was encouraging to see the Bears' offense showcase new wrinkles, especially in the run game. The best pass play came when Fields found tight end Ryan Griffin for a wide-open touchdown in another situational 11-on-11 drill. It was a crafty play design with the play-action fake springing the tight end for an easy score.
That's a nice feather in the cap. However, overall the offense has failed in every drill in which they don't start with an inherent advantage. You have to be able to score in the red zone. But the Bears have an issue getting the ball into the scoring zone at the moment.
Here are more notes from Day 6 of camp:
-- That two-minute wasn't the only blemish for the Bears' offense. The 7-on-7 drill, was particularly rough. The ball spent more time on the turf than the receivers' hands. Fields had N'Keal Harry wide-open on a corner route in the end zone and airmailed him. The offense ran the same play a few reps later. Fields connected with Harry this time, but only after the play was allowed to continue despite a false start.
Fields also missed Mooney in the middle of the end zone and could not connect with Byron Pringle on a back-shoulder throw.
-- On the bright side, the Bears' run game did look good with pads. The offensive line did a nice job of creating holes for David Montgomery and Herbert, both of whom should succeed in this wide-zone scheme.
-- During an early 11-on-11 period, Fields was given solid protection, stepped up in the pocket and threw a dart to Pringle over the middle of the field for a big gain. Pringle got the better of Gordon in coverage.
-- Running back Darrynton Evans had a solid day running the ball and catching it out of the backfield for the second-team offense.
-- Braxton Jones got the first-team reps at left tackle while veteran Riley Reiff and Larry Borom rotated in at right tackle. During 11-on-11 drills, Borom had issues blocking Trevis Gipson, which led to Reiff getting more work with the first team on that side.
-- In individual drills, Equanimeous St. Brown went up and high-pointed a ball over Jaylon Johnson. Kyler Gordon blanketed Mooney but lost a jump ball to Harry.
-- The best individual matchup so far has been Kmet vs. Jackson. While the tight end has gotten the better of the veteran safety early in camp, Jackson had two wins Tuesday as the Bears use two of their most important players to sharpen each other's skills.
-- Jaquan Brisker, Kindle Vildor and Matt Adams had impressive pass breakups vs. Fields during the day.
-- The Bears will put the pads back on Wednesday.