Through hardship, Bears coach Matt Eberflus is seeing something new from his starting quarterback.
Justin Fields is standing up to difficult conditions with his receivers dropping by the day. He's finding different targets and quickly integrating them into the attack.
"His timing is getting better and it's really, for him, that's really good because how do you get the timing down with different receivers?" Eberflus said. "For him to be able to do that, that shows a lot, to me. We're excited where he is on that front, for sure."
Fields had to finish practice this week throwing to Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, Isaiah Coulter and Tajae Sharpe with the first team.
All eyes will naturall be on Fields a the Bears begin preseason play Saturday at noon at Soldier Field against the Kansas City Chiefs.
There are other players to watch on offense, as well. Here are three players to watch when the Bears are on the field for the first time for a game in the Matt Eberflus coaching era.
1. Left Tackle Braxton Jones
The fifth-round rookie from Southern Utah has shown great athleticism pass blocking in padded and unpadded practices. Much of the pass rush has come against Bears defensive end Robert Quinn, who lines up on that side of the line. Regardless of whether there are pads or not, or who he was blocking, the protection of Fields has not been a live-fire situation. How does Jones respond when he knows his quarterback is going to actually be hit, and pass rushers are going all out in a game? Also as important is how he run-blocks. Even in padded practices there are very few actual full-contact plays going on and blockers and tacklers aren't locking up the way they do in live drills. If the Bears are serious about using a rookie Day 3 draft pick on opening day against Nick Bosa and the 49ers, they could get a lot better idea of whether that's possible as he battles Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap, who have lined up at the right defensive end spot for the Chiefs.
2. Wide Receiver Tajae Sharpe
Fields has suddenly begun to hit the free agent acquisition from Atlanta with regularity as his receivers have gone out with injuries. Ironically, it was Sharpe who was on the non-football injury list when camp started, but he seems to have advanced by attrition. Darnell Mooney and Equanimeous St. Brown have had good rapports in the passing game with Fields throughout camp but this is the connection that has appeared the hottest lately and Sharpe needs this to win a roster spot.
3. Running Back Trestan Ebner
The sixth-round rookie back from Baylor seems to break out into the open more often than other backs, although it's partly because he is used often in the passing game and more importantly had been facing second- and third-team defenses. He'll get extensive play. It's important for him to show he can pass block as well as be involved as a receiver out of the backfield. He has good return ability but the Bears haven't explored this much in practices, so it's another area to watch during preseason games.