LAKE FOREST — Another day of training camp, another day with a number of the Bears’ best offensive weapons on the sidelines.
The Bears had at least 20 players not participating in practice on Wednesday, including Velus Jones Jr., Byron Pringle, N’Keal Harry, Dante Pettis, David Moore, Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin and David Montgomery.
As such, quarterback Justin Fields led the Bears offense with Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown and a second-team offense host, along with receiver Isaiah Coulter and running back Trestan Ebner seeing a lot of work with the first team on Wednesday.
Coulter took his opportunity to play with some.
In the 11-on-11 first period of the day, the offense faced a third-and-6 (east) on a Justin Jones sack. Coulter had a great clearance off the line against cornerback Lamar Jackson and Fields hit it for a 27 on a break route to give the offense the series win.
At the end of practice, Coulter made the catch of the day.
The Bears coaches put 20 seconds on the clock and told the offense to get into goal range without timeouts. Coulter lined up in the right slot and ran a corner on nickelback Jaylon Jones. Coulter’s route wasn’t the smoothest, but Fields dropped the ball into the bucket and the receiver put both feet inbounds inside the 10-yard line.
Although Coulter made the day’s play, it wasn’t up to him.
“He flew away,” Mooney said of Coulter after practice. “Last game we were lined up in the wrong formation. That was my route. If he didn’t catch it, I was going to kick his ass a bit. But he’s playing.
“He’s always done his thing, more after practice, and he comes home with me to catch pitchers whenever I don’t have my doctor. He’s a ball player for sure.”
Coulter’s catches highlighted the day for a shorthanded offense. Fields worked solidly without most of his best weapons. He went through his progressions quickly and made quick decisions, often resulting in retirements to Ebner and Khalil Herbert.
As it was, the offense was not without its warts.
In a “moving the chains” drill, Fields checked the ball to Ebner twice for minimal play before Luke Getsy dialed in a trick. Fields threw the ball to Ebner, who looked to hit St. Brown as he crossed the field. But the pass was wide of the mark and the defense escaped with a win.
In the second training section at 11 v 11 (move the ball), the attack spat again.
After back-to-back runs by Herbert set up third and 7, Fields hacked to the right and hit St. Brown in the middle for a big play.
On the ensuing play, Fields faked Herbert and opened up Mooney in midfield for what would have been another first down, but he missed the target. Ebner followed with a run for a short gain, and Fields’ pass to the rookie on the flat on third down hit the line.
The attack also failed to get the job done in another late half/game drill.
Given the ball with 45 seconds left and no time out near midfield, Fields checked the ball to Ebner and Herbert for small gains before hitting tight end Chase Allen for a first down.
With the clock at 11 seconds, the Bears needed to pick up a yardage chunk and stop the clock. Fields hit Mooney for a 20-plus gain, but the catcher couldn’t get out of bounds and time expired.
Down six of his eight best expected targets, Fields did well adjusting the offense and pushing it forward with limited weaponry. With the amount of talent in shorts and bucket hats, there’s not much more you could ask for from Fields in this context.
Coulter, meanwhile, made the most of his “next man” opportunity, at the very least by getting into the picture for the final wide receiver position.
Here are some other notes from Day 12:
— Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor, Tavon Young, Thomas Graham Jr. and Mario Edwards were also among those who did not practice on Wednesday.
– Undrafted rookie receiver Kevin Shaa had a great catch for the second time in three practices. This time, the Liberty product landed a deep touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian.
— Jaquan Brisker made the defensive play of the day. During a period of “moving the ball”, Fields bought time in the pocket, slid to the right and threw a ball to Mooney in the middle of the field. But Brisker latched onto the receiver and broke up the pass, sparking a defensive celebration.
– Lamar Jackson knocked out Fields in individual drills.
– Teven Jenkins was back on a third-string right tackle on Wednesday, a day after getting reps with the second team at Soldier Field. Larry Borom was back at second-team right tackle after getting second-team left tackle reps on Tuesday.
– Braxton Jones blocked Robert Quinn in one-on-one practice but was beaten easily by Al-Quadin Muhammad. Meanwhile, Jenkins was smoked by Dominique Robinson but blocked Trevis Gipson. Justin Jones continues to appear, quickly passing right guard Michael Schofield.
— Darnell Mooney said he spoke with N’Keal Harry and the receiver was in good spirits. Mooney did not disclose the timing of the receiver’s return, but said he was happy with what he heard from Harry.
– Mooney broke his one-handed grip in practice on Tuesday. The Bears’ star receiver noted that cornerback Jaylon Jones was holding one of his arms during play, so he had to grab the ball with one hand.
— Kicker Cairo Santos lamented the poor pitch conditions at Soldier Field on Tuesday. Santos said he practiced on a grass pitch during the offseason before realizing he had to go to a dilapidated soccer field with longer Bermuda grass to mimic the conditions of strike from Soldier Field.