After Sunday's "Family Fest" practice at Soldier Field, the Bears now have 10 training camp practices under their belt and will play their first preseason game Saturday against the Tennessee Titans.
All eyes are understandably on quarterback Justin Fields as he looks to take a big step forward as a passer in Year 3. Fields and the offense have had an uneven camp so far. The Bears' defense has dominated most of the padded practices, including a complete drubbing last Wednesday. But Fields and the offense found their groove Sunday, authoring arguably their sharpest practice to date.
With 10 training camp practices, including four padded days, in the books, today's off day is a good time to look at some of the camp standouts so far.
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You won't find Fields or wide receiver DJ Moore on this list. They have been solid, but the bar is high for them, and a handful of other players have strung several strong practices together in a row.
I'd argue that Brisker has been the Bears' best player in camp so far.
The second-year safety has missed the last two days with a minor injury, but that won't keep him from headlining this list. Brisker has been flying around the field early in camp, setting the tone with his play and energy.
The Penn State product has recorded several interceptions early in camp, including a leaping pick of backup quarterback P.J. Walker. Brisker has also picked off Fields a few times in team drills and 7-on-7.
Brisker's motor is always running high, but he ramped it up when the pads came on. He delivered several tone-setting pops to backs and receivers and was one of the biggest trash talkers in the defense's domination last Wednesday.
"He’s one of our guys that is definitely an elite competitor," head coach Matt Eberflus said. "He loves to compete, he loves football. We love Jaquan’s emotion, his passion, and with a guy like that, his motor runs that hot where he has to harness it into a controlled situation where it works for him all the time. He’s done a great job of that. We’re excited to see him play this year."
Brisker had a solid rookie season but made several Year 1 mistakes that he must clean up this fall.
"I feel like last year I came in just I feel like I was just moving too fast," Brisker said during mandatory minicamp in June. "I caught up to the game, but I messed up my thumb and things like that. I feel like when I came back, I was trying to move too fast instead of being under control, being myself, making plays, and not giving up certain things or not being consistent. Usually, I’m a consistent leader and things like that. You see it during the OTAs this year, a lot different energy. I’m flying around playing both safeties and things like that.
"So definitely going to get a different nine this year."
So far, Brisker has held true to his pledge, but the Bears need him to get healthy and back on the field as soon as possible.
Things looked bleak when the Bears put Claypool on the Physically Unable To Perform List one day before report day. Twenty-four hours later, the Bears removed him and gave him the all-go to participate in camp.
The results so far have been exactly what the Bears wanted to see from the fourth-year receiver.
Claypool has participated in all 10 practices. That's important for a guy who missed most of the offseason program with soft-tissue injuries.
He has run good, crisp routes and used his big frame and physicality to make contested catches in red-zone drills and third-down situations. His chemistry with Fields is clearly at another level, and the trust between the two seems to grow with each practice.
"Chase has been doing his thing lately," Fields said Wednesday. "I’m proud of him. He’s one of those guys on offense that he’s going to bring that energy pretty much every day. He’s an emotional player. He’s been doing good. Making contested catches. He’s such a big body where he’s a big presence out there. When he gets going on every route, it’s hard to stop him. Even in the running game, he’s crushing linebackers. It’s definitely great to have Chase."
Claypool also has shown himself to be a vital emotional leader for the Bears' offense.
During that brutal Wednesday practice for the offense, Claypool was the lone member of the first team to show an edge and go back at a chippy defense. Fields called for more juice after that practice, and on Saturday, Claypool got into a scuffle with Eddie Jackson after the safety delivered a nice pop to the receiver along the sideline.
That energy is important for a Bears' offense filled with more "silent assassins," according to Jackson. However, Claypool does need to find a way to toe the line, which is where Darnell Mooney comes in.
"You’ve gotta watch him. He’s a hothead, for sure," Mooney said, chuckling on Wednesday. "You’ve got to calm him. That’s why I’m jumping in there like, “Yeah, OK, calm down.’ But I’m really like, ‘Hey, c’mon.’ No, yeah, Chase is a hothead for sure. He’ll run through you guys and don’t know how to calm down. He just needs somebody to pull you back and be like, ‘Hey, chill out.’ I’ll be that guy for him, for sure."
Claypool entered camp with question marks about his future with the organization. While his production in games will ultimately determine his fate, the Bears are pleased with everything they have seen from the big receiver so far.
Brisker isn't the only second-year defensive back who looks different entering Year 2.
Gordon has been open about how his mind was moving too fast during his rookie season. He spent the offseason studying film to see the mistakes he made and the receivers he will face in 2023.
That work seems to have paid off early in camp. Like Brisker, Gordon has been flying around and seems to always be around the ball.
During the defense's domination last Wednesday, Gordon blanketed Velus Jones Jr. and easily picked off a throw from Fields on a quick out to the right sideline. Later in that practice, Gordon blew up an outside zone run to the right and then snuffed out a play-action bootleg to the right. The nickelback came on a blitz and blew past tight end Robert Tonyan to "sack" Fields.
Gordon missed Sunday's practice with a minor undisclosed injury.
The Bears entered training camp with an expected three-way battle for the running back spot between Foreman, Khalil Herbert, and Roschon Johnson.
But through 10 practices, Foreman and Herbert have received the majority of the reps with the first-team offense.
While Herbert has been solid, Foreman has been the Bears' best back so far in camp. Since the pads have come on, Foreman has shown great physicality and excellent vision running the football, allowing him to pick up yards after "first contact." Foreman has also been a reliable pass-catcher in the screen game and as a quick release when Fields has faced pressure.
The Bears will go with a running-back-by-committee approach all season, but Foreman has separated himself a bit through 10 practices.
In case you didn't know, the Bears' run defense was an outright abomination last season.
The Bears ranked 31st in rushing yards allowed, 32nd in rushing touchdowns allowed, and tied for 27th in yards per carry allowed.
Enter Andrew Billings.
The Bears brought the veteran nose tackles to Chicago to solidify a run defense that was ripped apart last season.
So far, the Billings impact has been quite noticeable.
The Bears asked the 28-year-old to reshape his body during the offseason, and he arrived at camp in pristine condition. Billings has bullied just about everyone who has lined up across from him, and he has had his way in team periods against starting left guard Teven Jenkins and center Cody Whitehair. When the first-team defense faces the second-team offense, Billings has been an absolute game-wrecker.
On Sunday, Billings blew up several run plays and generated pressure on backup quarterback P.J. Walker.
"I always knew he was strong at the point," Eberflus said of Billings on Sunday. "I saw that on tape when I watched him with opponents. But he’s really got some good quickness. His initial quickness. He’s got a quick set of hands. When you play that nose tackle position, your hands have to move from the ground to the man super fast. It’s gotta be elite, and he does a really good job with that. And he’s got the foot quickness to be able to stay where he needs to stay."