Home News Caleb Williams, Chicago Bears embrace the learning process

Caleb Williams, Chicago Bears embrace the learning process

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Caleb Williams will learn. That’s what this is all about.

Williams will learn quickly which of his gifts as a quarterback immediately translate at the highest level of his sport. Plus he’ll learn what he can’t get away with anymore in the NFL when it comes to making magic as a playmaker.

It’s all still fluid this week at Halas Hall as the Chicago Bears continue their minicamp.

Williams continues learning a new offense. He’s learning the skill sets of his new teammates. He’s learning how to use his cadence as a weapon at the line of scrimmage.

Yet with every learning process comes struggle. Inconsistency. Error. That’s all part of this, too, a reality the rookie quarterback and the Bears have accepted and are embracing as they march toward the 2024 regular season.

During a 7-on-7 period Tuesday afternoon, Williams was a beat slow and a hair off in processing where he wanted to go with the football. He went through his progressions properly. Yet his timing and rhythm were off.

His body hitched and brain glitched. Rather than finding a completion, Williams threw a wild pitch over the middle that sailed into the arms of veteran safety Kevin Byard. It was a mistake. A turnover. A learning experience.

“He took a hitch and the ball should have come out,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus explained. “Then he took two hitches and (the ball) was late over the middle. That’s always dangerous when you do that. But that’s the learning experience in the process a young quarterback has to go through.”

Williams made a similar mistake Wednesday, another turnover also in 7-on-7 on a pass over the middle. This time it was veteran linebacker Tremaine Edmunds reading the quarterback’s eyes and alertly sinking to snatch a pass toward receiver Freddie Swain.

“Balls that are thrown late over the middle, they’re usually put in harm’s way,” Eberflus said.

But the Bears coach also offered an appropriate early-June shrug.

“This is that process and exposure and experimentation of the quarterback,” he said. “And that ultimately leads to that whole evolution of what he feels he can and cannot do.”

Photos: Inside Chicago Bears minicamp at Halas Hall

‘A beginner’s mindset’

The Bears must continue wrapping their arms around that process as they seek a successful balance in retaining patience with their young quarterback’s development while still showing ideal urgency to compete for a playoff spot this season.

Through that lens, it won’t always be easy — particularly when the day’s results take on much greater significance — to maintain proper perspective or wall off any heightened frustration that might bubble up when Williams’ struggles are more pronounced.

Still, there’s an understanding inside the walls of Halas Hall that finding a healthy equilibrium might be vital to success this season.

“It’s a good thing our quarterback is highly competitive and that he’s of high character,” Eberflus said. “He’s going to be pushing that ball down the court. I don’t think we have to worry about that. I really don’t. We’ll be pacing this thing at a pretty fast pace — like we’ve done already. And I’ve seen the progress in him.”

When Eberflus talks of “pushing that ball down the court,” it’s a declaration of confidence in Williams’ prowess for learning, of taking in high volumes of information and understanding it all quickly. That will continue to be a catalyst to the quarterback’s growth. And through six weeks as a Bear, two of Williams’ obvious strengths have been his push to improve and ability to learn.

“(It’s) having a beginner’s mindset,” Eberflus said, “to be able to learn, absorb, ask questions and just keep learning. That is what has been impressive to me. If he does that, he’ll be just fine.”

‘A lot going on’

Bears quarterback Caleb Williams looks to pass during minicamp on June 5, 2024, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)
Bears quarterback Caleb Williams looks to pass during minicamp on June 5, 2024, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)

Williams’ ability to keep up with everything being thrown at him will be tested in the coming months. Quite frankly, it might become one of the major variables in determining how far the Bears can go this season.

Playoff aspirations are real in Lake Forest. They’re realistic too. Still, there’s a longer-term, bigger-picture aim, which is to set Williams up to become one of the league’s top starting quarterbacks into the 2030s. That’s where the hope for both Williams and the Bears to display early success this season must be balanced with a vision for the future and an understanding of the bumpy road ahead.

Once again, there will be times when patience and urgency will be in a fierce tug of war. That has been obvious already. Imagine how much things might heighten in September and October and beyond.

Still, Williams’ offensive teammates remind themselves daily that some of their current struggles — “rough spots,” as guard Teven Jenkins identified them Wednesday — are an inevitable byproduct of bringing a rookie quarterback along.

“I mean, that’s football,” Jenkins said. “New face, new guy. He’s coming in from college. It’s all going to be a little different for him.”

To that end, empathy continues a reliable pain reliever.

“I have all the confidence he’s going to get this down quick,” Jenkins said. “He’s a quick learner. There’s always that patience (you have) with everybody. New offense, new playbook, new city. There’s a lot going on for him right now.”

Trusting the process

Tight end Cole Kmet is entering his fifth season. Only one player on the 90-man roster — long snapper Patrick Scales — has been here longer. Williams is about to become the eighth starting quarterback the Bears have used during Kmet’s tenure.

“I’ve played with a bunch of different quarterbacks at this point now,” Kmet said. “So that’s nothing new.”

After enduring 43 losses over his first four years, Kmet feels momentum building to where he can realistically envision his first trip to the playoffs in January. Still, like everyone else on the Bears offense, Kmet will retain perspective for where Williams is at in his development.

“It’s really just being patient with it all and understanding there’s a learning process to it,” Kmet said. “Especially as a rookie, there’s a lot you have to learn coming into the league.

“I feel like (Caleb) has done a great job so far throughout OTAs. You can see those steps he’s taking week to week. But there’s definitely an element of patience that has to be there just because of where he’s at in his career.”

Eberflus sees the Bears’ OTAs and minicamp as periods of experimentation, particularly for Williams. When training camp begins, the sense of purpose will escalate.

The Bears feel confident their established defense can be the team’s engine until Williams is ready to take on greater responsibility. They are also reassured that the veteran presence around Williams on offense will lessen some of his stress and struggle.

Said Eberflus: “It’s really about growing together. It’s about having that continuity together and really feeling out the skill sets. Once we get the skill sets down to feel (out) what we can do offensively, we have to leverage those things as our strengths.”

In the meantime, the learning continues with Williams in the early stages of his NFL education and working to accelerate toward a meaningful breakthrough.

“We’re just doing a really good job of getting experience, getting him exposure,” Eberflus said. “Let him experiment with his arm talent and the receivers he has. Eventually, then, player development happens and the evolution of a quarterback happens. That’s the process we have to go through. And that’s what we are doing right now.”



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