Kickoff rules, the pass rush and offensive changes: Takeaways from Chicago Bears coordinators

On Day 2 of Chicago Bears rookie camp, all three of the team's coordinators spoke.

Here are our takeaways from Richard Hightower, Shane Waldron and Eric Washington's press conferences Saturday morning.

Richard Hightower: A new kickoff rule brings more opportunity

The NFL's new kickoff rules mean an offseason to hit the books for the Bears' training camp.

"We're all learning," Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower said. "It's new for everyone."

The new rules dictate players now line up on the opposite 40-yard line and are not allowed to move until after the kickoff is touched by the returning player.

This benefits teams with a dynamic returner the most. It also benefits teams in general, as Hightower is expecting the kind of returns under the new kick off rule to give teams the ball with better field position than under the previous rule. 

"We expect drive starts to go up," Hightower said. "We suspect scoring to increase."

Hightower also sees this new rule as an opportunity.

Players on the Bears' roster like Velus Jones and Kahlil Herbert, who have speed, will get a chance to return more kicks. This means more chances for players to get touches for players who might not get them otherwise.

Hightower specifically mentioned Jones, who has a combination of size and speed that could flip the field.

"With his type of skillset, with the speed and the power that he has and he's coming full speed ahead at you, it's like a freight train running at you," Hightower said. "He's going to get an opportunity to touch the ball three or four more times a game."

With more chances for skill players to utilize those skills, Hightower sees that as a boon for the offense.

"It’s a short field for Caleb and the boys to go to work with," Hightower said.

Eric Washington: Focus is on building a pass rush

There's plenty for Washington to like as he gets to know the defense that he's working with.

He's familiar with Eberflus' defense, he's already worked with Tremaine Edmunds during his time in Buffalo and from what he's seen, there's plenty in the Bears secondary that excites him. 

"Our back seven, I think they're as good a group as there is," Washington said. "I'm biased, but having a chance to be out on the football field and watch them and watch the details, there's just a lot to be really excited about."

With the likes of Edmunds, TJ Edwards, Jaquan Brisker, Kyler Gordon and Jaylon Johnson in that back seven, that's a group he doesn't need to be concerned with. 

That means he can focus on the elephant in the room, which is curating a pass rush.

Washington has plenty of background in building pass rushers. He helped AJ Epenesa, Ed Oliver and former Bear Leonard Floyd put out career years as pass rushers in 2023.

With the Bears, Washington said he's gotten familiar with what the Bears currently have. Now, the focus shifts to the next step of curating the pass rush. 

"I believe our rushers are a year better in terms of where we were last year and some of the things we're going to do to enhance that group," Washington said. 

Having Montez Sweat on the edge is a good start, as is having a player like Gervon Dexter who emerged as a rookie in 2023 and will have a chance to step in as the Bears' 3-technique defensive tackle after Justin Jones departure.

"As the reps and the experiences started to accumulate, you saw him starting to impose his will a little bit more. That affected his technique,' Washington said. "I went back and looked at all of the rookie stuff and the individual stuff last year, so I could have something to measure where he is now against where he was when he first came in."

Washington said he saw Dexter become more comfortable as the season progressed and as Dexter got more chances to make plays.

The 3-technique defensive tackle is one of the most important pieces of Eberflus' defense. Getting Dexter to flourish in that position would be a difference-making development this offseason. That's the job Washington is undertaking.

"Our responsibility is make sure he is when it counts," Washington said of Dexter. "That's why we're gonna use the full process, the all season training camp, every ounce of meeting week get walkthroughs to just continue moving forward."

Shane Waldron: How fast can Caleb Williams get up to speed?

The Bears had a chance to get Williams in front of their offense before he was drafted. That was a boon for the offensive coaching staff.

Now that Williams is officially deemed the Bears' starting quarterback in 2024, the work Williams did away from Halas Hall has him hitting the ground running.

"Anytime you have a preexisting relationship with somebody, you have a little more trust and understanding of how we're going to work together," Waldron said. "There's always a unique thing about the NFL where we have the players for a certain amount of time during the year, but there's also a big portion of individual time and time in the off season."

It was about starting off on the right foot. Williams did that on his first day of mini camp practice Friday, looking comfortable with his throws.

The next step after that are some of the finer things about being an NFL quarterback. That includes taking snaps from under center and his footwork.

Waldron said he saw encouraging things from Williams in that regard during Williams' pro day in March. Those are showing up in rookie camp and create the floor to work with.

"The things that we're pouring into right now is just the understanding of the big picture of the game, right, and all the intricacies and the nuances," Waldron said. "First of all between college and the NFL, being able to start with that ground floor approach and build that repertoire of his knowledge up as we're going."


First takes from Caleb Williams and more from the first day of Chicago Bears rookie camp

Here are some first impressions from the first day of rookie mini camp at Halas Hall, including from Caleb Williams' first passes as a Chicago Bear.