Justin Fields

Bears minicamp observations: Justin Fields shines in red-zone finale

Justin Fields and the Bears' offense went into their summer break with a bang

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Quarterback Justin Fields has had good and bad moments during the Bears' offseason program. There have been interceptions and dimes, overthrows and darts. That's usually the case in June practices when the offense isn't game-planning to beat the defense and is instead just working on their own operation.

But Fields punctuated a solid spring with his best day yet Thursday at Halas Hall when the Bears wrapped up mandatory minicamp with a short practice focused on the red zone.

A day after opening team drills with a pick-six, Fields was sharp right out of the gate.

He opened the first period with a quick completion to Velus Jones Jr. before finding Equaniemous St. Brown in the end zone for a touchdown. Fields finished his first round with completions to Khalil Herbert and Cole Kmet, going a perfect 4-for-4 in Round 1.

Fields opened Round 2 with another completion to Jones. He had Tyler Scott open on the next play and threw a strike that hit Scott's hands, but the rookie couldn't haul it in. On the next play, Fields saw the defense was in shell coverage and ripped a dart to tight end Robert Tonyan in the back corner. Fields fit the ball into a tight window between cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and safety Elijah Hucks, and Tonyan made a slick one-handed catch for the score.

“Bo Jack had inside leverage, so really on that one, it was just beating Bo Jack to the spot right there," Fields said of the throw to Tonyan. "That’s why it was kind of a flat throw right there, because Bo Jack has seen our concepts. He knows, and Tyrique – we know he’s going to jump those little out routes – so I was waiting for that one. Just fitting it in the window and really being ready to throw and putting it in a spot where only he can get it.”

Fields' final throw of the second round fell incomplete after a miscommunication with Dante Pettis.

The third-year quarterback punctuated his day with a three-touchdown third period. He opened the stanza with a bullet to Kmet in the back corner of the end zone, where Jackson was in coverage as Fields referred to in the above quote. After a throwaway, a short completion to St. Brown, and a pass breakup from Jaquan Brisker, Fields finished the day with back-to-back touchdown passes to Pettis. The receiver beat Kyler Gordon on both plays.

It's important to note that while the red-zone drills were 11-on-11, the Bears' defense was not in a full rush, giving the drill more of a 7-on-7 feel.

Head coach Matt Eberflus was pleased with Fields' work in the red zone. Eberflus has said he expects to tap into Fields' rushing ability in the red zone, but improvement as a passer in close quarters is needed.

"Those are tight throws inside there," Eberflus said. "The closer you get the tighter the throws are. So you gotta be able to put 'em low and away sometimes. Sometimes you gotta put 'em high and outside. It’s really important. The accuracy down there is so important, as being on the same page as the receivers. Because Bobby and Cole and Clay and all the big receivers that we have, those guys are very valuable targets down there because they’re always open, because they can use their body to stay open. That’s what we need to work on."

Eberflus noted the tempo rush the Bears worked with Thursday but was pleased with the day Fields had in the red area.

"It was good. I thought it was nice," Eberflus said. "I thought Justin went through his reads and went through his progressions nicely and hit some good routes in the corners and the front pylons. It was good."

Here are more notes from the final day of Bears' mandatory minicamp:

-- Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson started the offseason working with the second team but has quickly risen up the depth (reps) chart to take the first-team slot opposite Jaylon Johnson. The Bears are pleased with where the second-round pick is early in his career.

"We love where he is in terms of his length, his competitiveness and we know he tackles," Eberflus said of Stevenson. "We know he likes to hit. That’s why he’s here. Corners need to tackle. They need to really be a physical force out there and he’s gonna do that. And we’re excited about that, getting the pads on. So I think he’ll take even a step up more when we get the pads on. We get to see him used to those pads."

-- Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney both were in the building but did not participate during minicamp. Mooney is still rehabbing from ankle surgery, and Claypool is dealing with some minor ailments. Fields has developed a quick connection with DJ Moore, but it's imperative Claypool and Mooney are healthy during training camp so the Bears' passing game can fully gel.

Despite the absences, Fields is confident about where his chemistry stands with his top targets.

"Chase has been out, what, the past two weeks?" Fields said. "So, I feel like when Chase was practicing with us, we did get that down a little bit. I think he grew tremendously from last year until now. So, I think we got a base in. With Mooney, I feel like I’m already connected with Mooney, so that’s fine. But it’s just going to be great having those guys back on the field and having them healthy for training camp instead of having them come out for three or four practices, risking further injury. The biggest thing with that was just health."

-- Fields will head to France on Friday to host a football camp with Jordan Love and Deshaun Watson. When he returns, he plans to have everyone join him in Florida for a group throwing session.

-- Eberflus noted his excitement over the Bears' planned joint practices with the Indianapolis Colts during training camp.

“It’s exciting to be able to do that," Eberflus said. "We’ve done them in the past. There’s a lot of good work during those crossovers. The 1-on-1s are really cool to do, the pass rushes and the covers and all those things, the DBs versus the receivers. You get to go against a different skillset, which is really neat because you get to adjust your skillset to them, your technique. It’s going to be fun to be able to see that and evaluate that.”

-- The Bears will open training camp in late July.

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