Bears report card: Grading offense, defense through two training camp weeks

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Grading Bears' offense, defense through two weeks of camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST – Ten days of training camp are in the books, and the Bears will face the Kansas City Chiefs in their preseason game Saturday at Soldier Field.

With four padded practices in the books, now is a good time to give a very, very early overview of how each unit has faired.

Quarterback Justin Fields has been impressive, but his performance has not been flawless. The Bears' receiver competition remains heated, but a few contenders have emerged to slot in behind Darnell Mooney on the depth chart.

As for the defense, the pass rush has shown nice get-off, and the secondary, especially Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, has been a bright spot.

Here's an early training camp report card for both sides of the ball with the preseason opener on the horizon:


Any issue the Bears' offense has had finding its groove doesn't fall on Fields' shoulders.

The second-year quarterback showcased an ability to respond to adversity early on in camp. On Day 3, Fields opened the 11-on-11 period with two interceptions, both of which were tremendous plays by Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, respectively.

Fields bounced back with a touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney, an athletic jump pass to Cole Kmet for six, and an off-platform laser to Equanimeous St. Brown for another score. Fields also ripped off a 20-yard rushing touchdown, although he might have been brought down before the goal line had it not been training camp.

The Ohio State product has operated behind several offensive line combinations and thrown to almost every one of the receivers vying for a roster spot.

Even with four of his top six receivers out this week, Fields modified the offense to get it moving even without his top weapons.

It hasn't all been perfect. Fields has been late on a few throws and has missed a couple open receivers.

But the good has far outweighed the bad. Fields' chemistry with Mooney remains unmatched, and the offseason work with Kmet clearly is paying dividends.

Grade: B

Passing offense

In a vacuum, Fields has been a positive. But as a whole, the passing game needs a lot of work.

The offensive line has been unable to consistently give Fields time no matter which five are out there.

When the line has held firm, the receivers have failed to create enough separation to create chunk plays. Mooney and St. Brown have been weapons in the red zone, and Kmet has made some excellent grabs in third-down situational drills.

But overall, the passing game has been filled with pre-snap penalties and alignment issues typical of a team in the early stages of an install.

Velus Jones Jr. has flashed his playmaking ability at times, but the Bears have not been able to show they can get him, Mooney, or Kmet the ball consistently.

There's a lot of work to be done.

Grade: C-minus

Rushing offense

The Bears have had four padded practices, so that's all we have to gauge the wide-zone rushing attack that fuels their offense.

All in all, I'd say early returns for the running game have been good, although it's hard to say for sure, with full tackling and cutting not allowed at this point.

David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert have shown good vision, and the offensive line that has struggled in pass protection has been able to get out in space and create lanes for the backs.

There hasn't been a lot to grade, but the running game has been solid.

Grade: B-minus

Pass rush

When Robert Quinn's status was in doubt heading into training camp, the Bears' front four looked like it was going to have real issues getting to the quarterback.

Perhaps it says more about the offensive line than the pass rush, but Quinn, Justin Jones, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Trevis Gipson have been harassing Justin Fields daily. Throw in rookie Dominique Robinson and the Bears' front four could be a worthy engine for Alan Williams' offense.

Jones has been especially impressive, showing why Eberflus and Poles targeted him as the disruptive three-technique to anchor the defensive line when the Larry Ogunjobi signing fell through.

The only team to blitz less than the Bears over the last four years were Eberflus' Colts. So, it's fair to expect the Bears to rely heavily on their front four to get pressure this season.

So far, they've shown they are up to the task against the offense's ever-shifting and young line. It might not be much, but it's better than the alternative.

Grade: B-plus

Pass defense

The Bears' pass defense was horrific last season. There's no way to sugarcoat it.

Eberflus and Poles made that unit a focus of their offseason, injecting talent into it with rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker. In Gordon and Brisker, the Bears have two ball-hawk defensive backs that are constantly causing havoc in the back end. Jaylon Johnson continues to be a lockdown corner, and Eddie Jackson has looked rejuvenated back at free safety with Brisker mainly playing in the box.

The Bears still are looking for their third corner. At this point, it seems likely Gordon will start at nickel with Kindle Vildor starting on the outside opposite Johnson. However, when healthy, Tavon Young and Thomas Graham Jr. could still push for the slot corner job, which would force Gordon outside and Vildor to the bench.

Johnson, Gordon, and Brisker have made few coverage mistakes early in camp. If the Bears can find a suitable solution for their other corner spot, their pass defense could be a strength this season.

Grade: B

Run defense

Like the rushing offense, it's hard to gauge where the run defense is this early in camp. Add in the fact that Roquan Smith remains on the PUP list, and it would be severely unfair to judge this unit at the moment.

Linebackers Nicholas Morrow, Matt Adams, and Joe Thomas have done a good job shooting through the gaps, and Thomas has especially been good at creating turnovers by punching the ball out.

Brisker, a prototypical box safety, also has been solid at coming up in run support.

Jones has been a significant disruptor in the middle, but the Bears' edge rushers have often found themselves out-flanked on the outside, leading to big runs by Montgomery, Herbert, and Trestan Ebner.

Presumed starting nose tackle Angelo Blackson also has missed several practices early on.

We'll learn more about this unit during preseason games than in practice.

Grade: B-minus

Special Teams 

From what we've seen of specials teams early on, coordinator Richard Hightower is harping on the fundamentals and the details.

The returner competition appears to be between Velus Jones Jr., Dazz Newsome, Khalil Herbert, and Chris Finke. Eddie Jackson also has returned a couple balls in practice.

Cairo Santos remains reliable, and rookie punter Trenton Gill has a big leg that has the Bears excited.

There is no negativity about this unit, but we haven't seen much to grade.

Grade: B-plus

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