The Chicago Bears remain an important work in progress as training camp progresses. On Saturday, the team held its fourth camp practice at Halas Hall, continuing to rank the roster battles and moving forward to next week when the pads will be laid.
Here are three things we learned from Saturday’s action at Lake Forest.
Gordon was the Bears’ first draft pick in April, selected 39th in Round 2. And it was clear from the start that the Bears were impressed with his sense of the game, his ability to change direction and his abilities to create plays. After four camp practices, Gordon appears to be preparing for a role in which he could play outside on the Bears’ base defense as he slides into the nickel game on subpacks.
The rookie has not only accepted the challenge of playing the slots, but has also raised his hand to do so.
“It’s a big deal when players want to do what you ask them to do,” Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams said Saturday. “Some guys are just obedient. They say, ‘Hey, coach, I’ll do anything you ask me to do.’ But when you have a guy who wants to do what you ask him to do, you get a little extra edge in terms of how that guy performs.”
Gordon was emphatic this week that he thoroughly enjoys playing the slots and values his experience playing inside at the University of Washington, learning to sharpen his vision and developing reaction skills that have helped him.
“I love nickel,” he said, “and I love what I can do there.”
Williams said he already feels Gordon is ready to be the Bears’ top corner, impressed with his quick athleticism, size and intelligence.
“There’s going to be a learning curve because it’s the NFL,” Williams said. “But we feel good about the direction he’s going in terms of lining up (correctly), where his eyes are and then just making plays.”
Williams also called Gordon “a ball magnet”. “For some reason, he’s always around soccer,” he said. “And when he is, he turns it around.”
St. Brown spent four seasons with the Green Bay Packers, including three while Getsy was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. Getsy contacted St. Brown immediately when he began free agency, and St. Brown joined the Bears on a one-year deal.
That familiarity has given St. Brown an advantage in a room full of wide receivers early in camp. St. Brown said that while Getsy has put some new wrinkles on the offense to make it unique, he is similar enough that he feels very comfortable in it, even giving advice to his teammates.
“There are little moments where the coaches fail, the receiving coach can fail, and I will step in or do my bit on what happened in a game or what could happen when you’re actually out there,” St. Brown. “Sometimes I step in and help.”
St. Brown had 37 receptions for 543 yards and a touchdown in three seasons with the Packers, missing 2019 with an ankle injury. But St. Brown said he believes he’s back on track and is “ready to show my talent and take my game to the next level.”
Getsy said St. Brown’s best football is ahead after seeing him mature last season after he initially didn’t make the Packers’ roster out of training camp.
“I saw the transformation of a guy turning pro, and his mentality, the toughness and the way he attacked every day, I was very impressed with the way he handled that,” Getsy said. “I always liked EQ and I thought he was a good player and then I saw him go through that adversity and the way he handled all of those things, that’s what all these guys lean on. That leadership and that experience that he went through, that’s great for us.”
For the past decade, Reiff was a household name for the Bears due to his nine seasons and 127 starts in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings.
Reiff joined the Bears on a one-year deal to open training camp and will likely be the starting left tackle, and Whitehair, the player who lines up next to him, likes the addition.
“Riley is great,” Whitehair said. “From the moment Riley walked in, I felt like we had a bond. I don’t know if it’s because we’re both NFC North linemen or what. But Riley has the same kind of mindset that I have. A guy who is going to work hard, a guy who is going to study and do the right thing.”
Because he signed in late, Reiff has been increasing his participation in practices. He did reps at first-team left tackle on Saturday, along with another new veteran, Michael Schofield, who was at right guard for a few reps. Offensive tackle Teven Jenkins sat out with an undisclosed ailment.
“Any time we get to have competition here, that’s a good thing, especially guys that have a lot of experience like them,” Whitehair said of Reiff and Schofield. “He’s just going to continue to improve our room and help us grow as an offensive line.”