The offense rebounded with a better showing during the second of three mandatory veteran minicamp practices Wednesday, with quarterback Justin Fields making some sharp throws and avoiding turnovers that plagued him the day before.
Here are three things learned at Halas Hall.
1. Tight end Ryan Griffin envisions the Bears building a ‘cold-weather’ team.
The 10-year-veteran, who signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract in April, seemed to describe the kind of offensive system that would rely on good tight ends.
“You can see in our roster makeup we’re a younger team,” Griffin, 32, said. “A lot of hungry guys. Hardworking guys. And I think our vision is a hardworking, tough-nosed, cold-weather football team, and I pride myself on being a part of some of those teams. I’m happy to be here and try to get this thing right.”
How is the offense going to come into shape?
“Seems like we’re going to be physical, we’re going to run, we’re going to be well-conditioned and we’re going to pound,” he said. “And we’re going to run sideline to sideline and hopefully we can get some balls over the top. In the meantime, we’ve got to score. You’ve got to put points on the board to win in this league. We’ve got the guys in this room to do it, we’ve just got to get the execution right, and that’s what this part of the year is all about. This is why we’re here. We’re working.”
Griffin and James O’Shaughnessy, the eight-year veteran from Naperville North and Illinois State, are the only veteran tight ends on the roster behind Cole Kmet. Perhaps it signals that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will lean more on 12 personnel (one running back, two wide receivers, two tight ends) this season. Getsy comes from Green Bay, and the Packers were No. 2 in the league using 12 personnel last season (29% of the time) behind only the Miami Dolphins.
It can be a good idea for teams that don’t have depth at wide receiver and it can help the running game. But not every team that uses the outside-zone running scheme uses a lot of 12 personnel. The San Francisco 49ers, for example, were in 12 personnel only 10% of the time last season.
2. Trevis Gipson says playing with his hand in the dirt will help.
The defensive end had a bit of a slow adjustment as a rookie in 2020 when he went from being a defensive end at Tulsa to playing as an outside linebacker. He adapted well in 2021, finishing with seven sacks, but is happy with the change in scheme in which he doesn’t have to be as concerned with responsibilities in coverage.
“They’re just turning us loose,” Gipson said. “Honestly, letting us play ball, play fast, play smart, with a tremendous amount of effort. So that’s something that’s going to pay off for the whole defense, the whole team, and I think we’re going to have great results.
“I think overall, especially in this defense … it’s going to be tremendous. I get to come out of a three-point, (accelerate) off the ball faster and just little things like that get lost in different positions.”
Gipson said he has been impressed with rookie Dominique Robinson, a situational pass rusher drafted from Miami-Ohio.
“Sort of reminds me of me, honestly,” Gipson said. “Fifth-round pick, chip on his shoulder his, dominating practice every day and still looking to get better anywhere he can.
“He’s really athletic. Dude is lean, can move, very versatile. He can rush the passer with speed and rush the passer with power, and I think that makes him a great player. I would say he’s better than me, honestly. He has a lot more pass-rush attributes than I did coming in. He has more experience on the edge than I did. We take the same approach to the learning game, but overall, he’s a great student, great athlete, and I think he’s going to help us a lot.”
3. At one point, the first-team offensive line had three Day 3 rookies.
Left guard Cody Whitehair had an excused absence and veteran Lucas Patrick was pretty much limited to individual drills, so the Bears moved some parts around. At one point Braxton Jones was at left tackle with Zach Thomas at left guard and Doug Kramer at center. Sam Mustipher lined up at right guard and Larry Borom was at right tackle. Veteran Dakota Dozier was not spotted after leaving Tuesday’s practice on a cart with what appeared to be an injury to his left leg.
At first glance, coach Matt Eberflus said he thought Thomas held up well and didn’t make any mental mistakes.
What’s going to be telling about the line is how the first and second teams are deployed at the start of training camp next month. The coaching staff might plan to have legitimate competitions at one or two positions, but the depth chart has to start somewhere. Decisions on who will be where could be made soon even if the reveal has to wait until late July.
“We’ll have a big meeting (Thursday) with (GM) Ryan (Poles) and his staff, with all of the coaches, just to reassess the whole roster before the players and the coaches go on break,” Eberflus said.
Teven Jenkins, the 2021 second-round pick, hasn’t been an option at guard, with Eberflus saying they’ve wanted him to focus on right tackle.