How the Chicago Bears' defense is playing into Caleb Williams' development

Plenty of scribes and experts have deliberated the idea of Caleb Williams stepping into Halas Hall.

Depending on who you ask, it might be the best situation for a rookie quarterback in NFL history. That's true on both ends.

On one hand, Williams' receiver room may be the best in Bears history. On the other side of the field is a defense that's made life frustrating for Williams in minicamp.

Williams might not agree right away – especially after interceptions in consecutive days – but that defense also wants to make Williams better. Cornerback Kyler Gordon sees it.

"He's going to figure this stuff out and it's just all about getting better and trying and getting that experience the same way when I was young and any rookie growing up," Gordon said. "You're going to try things and feel it and get the experience and know."

Williams is trying things in camp, but the Bears' first-team defense is welcoming him to the league during practices.

On Tuesday, he had an overthrow picked off by safety Kevin Byard. On Wednesday, he had a throw over the middle intercepted by linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in a 7-on-7 period.

It was a ball thrown late. While Williams can fix that, he probably won't have to worry about seeing a middle linebacker the same caliber of Edmunds.

"He is probably going to play most of his opponents and be like, ‘Wow, that MIKE is not very big,’" Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said with a laugh. "Balls that are thrown late over the middle are usually put in harm's way."

LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS - JUNE 05: Tremaine Edmunds #49 of the Chicago Bears stretches during the Chicago Bears mandatory minicamp at Halas Hall on June 05, 2024 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The defense will celebrate those big plays, they'll also celebrate their wins. Every time the defense forces a scramble or a checkdown, they count that as a win. 

However, Eberflus said he wants to see scramble drills. He wants Williams to simulate what he might do in a real game, so the team can develop the scramble skill into a weapon.

That, in turn, will help the defense learn how to defend it.

"We just have to turn it into a scramble drill, so we have to make that real because we will have some of that. He is very effective at that," Eberflus said. "Now, obviously, we want him to drop back, process and deliver the ball, but he is remarkable when it comes to throwing the ball on the move, so we have to use that as a weapon for us. That is going to be really good for our defense, too."

It does help when the defense is already objectively good.

General manager Ryan Poles constructed a defense that has played together for the last two years under Eberflus. Adding Byard to fill Eddie Jackson's shoes doesn't change the fact Gordon, Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson have a chance to play at a high level this season in the secondary. 

That's who Williams has seen the most this minicamp in terms of 7-on-7 an 11-on-11 periods.

"Those guys have been around, and with, each other for a while, so they understand our coverage concepts and how they complement each other," Eberflus said. "They're on point."

What Williams has done is keep trying the defense. It's shown resolve, and it's shown his skill.

After throwing an interception to Edmunds, Williams came back and dealt a deep touchdown pass to Velus Jones in 7-on-7 period. It wasn't against the first-team defense, but it was a still a chance to take a shot and get back on the board.

The starting defense is encouraging Williams to take his shots, too.

"He should," Gordon said. "Like get the feeling, know what he can and can't do. He's talented." 

Once Williams gets that feel for what he can and can't do against a high-caliber defense, it's a matter of making what he can do work. 

That's the benefit of having such a strong defense to learn against, which might be the best asset in Williams' arsenal as a rookie.

Not only will they make him better, but they've also been rookies, too.

"He's just going to keep stacking," Gordon said. "I got no doubt he going to do his thing."


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

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