The defense's edge & Caleb Williams' day: 3 takes from the first day of Chicago Bears mandatory minicamp

Welcome back, everyone.

All the Chicago Bears were back in Halas Hall on Tuesday for the first day of mandatory minicamp.

Montez Sweat, Keenan Allen, Kevin Byard, Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon were present Tuesday. Allen, Sweat and Cole Kmet spoke with the media after practice.

Here are our takes from the first day of Bears mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.

An up-and-down day for Caleb Williams 

In the three days we've seen Caleb Williams throw, he's had a not so great day (May 23) and a solid day (May 30). Tuesday was a bit of a rollercoaster.

In the first-team offense's 11-on-11 periods, including the two-minute situational drill, Williams completed four of his 10 passes. 

In the 7-on-7 drills, he looked much better. Williams had 11 completions on 13 attempts, although one of the incompletions was an interception by safety Kevin Byard. 

Eberflus said Williams took a hitch, and should have thrown the ball. Instead, Williams took a second hitch but the ball came out late and sailed on him and flew right into Byard's hands.

"We're just doing a really good job of getting experience, getting him the exposure, letting him experiment with his arm talent and the receivers that he has," Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said. "Eventually, player development happens and evolution of a quarterback happens."

It's still just the first week of June. Eberflus and the rest of the offensive players aren't concerned and have no reason to be.

The defensive players know any stumbles Williams has right now are lessons he's learning against a first-team defense that has all of its pieces back for mandatory minicamp. 

"Iron sharpens iron," Bears edge rusher Montez Sweat said. "He's a pretty humble, talented guy. He's a pretty down-to-earth guy."

Take it from a wide receiver who knows in Keenan Allen. The 12-year veteran worked with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, as well as established Pro Bowler Philip Rivers during his time in San Diego and Los Angeles.

"It's going to be a work in progress," Allen said. "Somewhere during training camp, it'll all come together."

Weaponizing the snap count is a work in progress

One of the biggest aspects of football a quarterback can utilize is the snap count. Aaron Rodgers did it against the Bears for years, not that anyone at Halas Hall needs a reminder.

Eberflus pointed it out Tuesday, too. 

"We have to use cadence as a weapon on offense," Eberflus said. "We won a game last year doing that."

That game in question was the win over the Lions at home, where Justin Fields got a free play and hit a streaking DJ Moore for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Gone, however, is Fields. Williams is now trying to assert his cadence with the Bears. The Bears had two pre-snap penalties Tuesday. That's due to Williams still working through his cadence calls and his voice. 

That's a work in progress, but it is getting better.

"You got to find your own voice when you come to the league," Bears tight end Cole Kmet said. "I thought today was his best day with it."

The quarterback's cadence is a hurdle the Bears will have time to work on. Minicamp is just a place where the coaching staff can highlight where to start.

Eberflus said getting the snap count down is a matter of repetition.

"It's just reps," Eberflus said.

LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS - JUNE 04: Caleb Williams #18 of the Chicago Bears talks with Brett Rypien #11 during Chicago Bears Minicamp at Halas Hall on June 04, 2024 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The defense was fired up Tuesday, and looked good

At one point during practice, defensive back Jaylon Johnson stopped for a brief second on the sideline and made it a point to explain how the defense is counting wins against the Bears' rookie quarterback.

The defense is counting every check down and scramble as a win over the offense. 

You couldn't miss one of these wins, either. The defense was loud in celebrating its wins over the offense. When the defense earned a sack, the opposite sideline went bananas.

"Defenses are annoying," Allen said. "Especially in practice."

But, that was the Bears' defense today. 

It brought a high level of energy to practice. It helped that Sweat was back, as was the entire starting secondary. 

"We just got to keep stacking the days," Sweat said. "Really just creating that chemistry."

As a unit, they earned high praise from the offense they picked on during the latter drills.

"They look like a top-five defense," Allen said. "They sound like a defense too."

Tyrique Stevenson had an impressive pass breakup in 11-on-11 drills. The defensive front seven also got into a scrum with the offensive line, which was "all talk and no action" as Eberflus put it.

But, the defense talked and talked often. It was fun gamesmanship in a practice where the pads weren't on.

"To play football, you gotta have a screw or two loose," Sweat said.

The first-team defense won its 11-on-11 periods. It was an example of the defense asserting its status as one of the better units in the league. 

We won't find out until the fall where the defense officially stacks up against the rest of the league, but there's a clear confidence the defense has in itself after how it closed out the back end of the 2023 season and found more pieces to utilize this offseason.

"They're definitely high class," Allen said.


How Matt Eberflus and the players reacted to the Chicago Bears going on 'Hard Knocks'

Before that season kicks off, the excitement and hope that will flow through training camp will be shown off on "Hard Knocks." Matt Eberflus said he doesn't see that as a negative.