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Bears defenders deliver the perfect message to Caleb Williams after first tough practice

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Quarterback prospects who are touted as generational talents typically aren’t accustomed to struggle. When every broken play, chaotic scramble; and sidearm throw has gone their way, there’s no reason to expect it won’t happen again.

But the NFL has a way of humbling its newcomers. 

Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, is entering the league with unattainable expectations. If he develops into the elite quarterback he is expected to be, it won’t happen immediately.

Williams received his first humbling experience while participating in seven-on-seven drills and an 11-on-11 red zone period during Chicago’s offseason team activities on Thursday. The USC product completed just four passes while being sacked five times. 

Bears safety Kevin Byard shared some advice with the rookie quarterback after the tough outing.

“I said something to him at the end of practice: ‘Keep going, we’re gonna keep making you better,’” Byard said Thursday. “Not necessarily saying that he had a terrible day, but days like this are gonna make you better. So, that’s our job, and like I said, obviously, just the first three days of practice, he’s done a lot of positive things. He’s made some really great throws. Just coming in with that swag as a rookie quarterback, he doesn’t seem flustered by anything, so that’s exciting to see.”

Despite the struggles, there’s no reason for Chicago to panic. The Bears are implementing a new offensive scheme under offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who spent the past three years orchestrating the Seattle Seahawks offense. The Bears offense also did not have their full arsenal of weapons at its disposal — wide receivers Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze were not in attendance.

Williams did show an instant connection with running back D’Andre Swift, while also completing a pass to tight end Gerald Everett.

The Bears defense, on the other hand, is a seasoned unit that came alive during the second half of the 2023 regular season. Along with Byard, the ascending secondary features safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, and Tyrique Stevenson. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds serves as the centerpiece of an unheralded and underrated unit heading into the 2024 season.

Perhaps the biggest concern at this point would be Williams’ tendency to hold onto the ball too long. It’s a familiar trait to Chicago fans who watched former Bears quarterback Justin Fields lead the league in sacks over the past three seasons.

Williams will find that magical moments don’t come easily in the NFL. The game moves quicker, the passing lanes are smaller, and precision and timing will ultimately dictate success more than ever before. He’ll have to process the field quickly — and correctly — to win consistently. Indecision will lead to inconsistency and chaos.

“Sometimes it’s going to be back and forth, and that’s how the season is going to be, week to week,” Byard explained. “Every week is not going to be great. Some weeks, we’re going to have to do a two-minute drill; he’s going to have to go win us a game. Some weeks, we’re going to blow people out. Sometimes it’s not going to be like that. So I would just kind of tell him, like, ‘Hey, days like this, just keep fighting, keep going, watch the film, get better.’ And that’s for everyone on the team. Everything is not going to be peaches and cream. You know what I’m saying? But I like his confidence, and he kind of just looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Of course I will.’ And that was good to see.”

The Bears defense is attempting to sharpen iron with iron. Whether or not the proverb serves them well is yet to be seen.

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