Silvy: OTAs a reminder that developing a rookie QB comes with growing pains

Shame on me.

I’ve covered the Chicago Bears as a reporter, pregame/postgame host, or talk show host since 1995.

I’ve watched thousands of reps. Talked to hundreds of players on and off the record. Charted competitions between Steve Walsh and Erik Kramer, Jim Miller and Shane Matthews, Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles. All the classics. I even reported on kicker competitions starting with Kevin Butler vs. Carlos Huerta to silence after the Cody Parkey disaster.

This ain’t my first rodeo.

We used to have a saying on the Bears beat back in the day, if you got fooled by a fake performance, you fell for “the banana in the tailpipe” thanks to Eddie Murphy and Beverly Hills Cop. Last Thursday, despite all the Halas Hall miles I’ve logged, I fell for the banana in the tailpipe.

There’s good reason for this. I woke up before the first OTA practice open to the media ready to watch with my reporter’s eyes, but my Bears’ fan heart. After watching Caleb Williams slice and dice a bunch of undrafted rookies during the Bears rookie mini camp, predicting the Bears would win 11 games, reading a bunch of 4,000-yard and 30-touchdown predictions, I foolishly showed up expecting a quarterback fireworks show against Bears veterans and one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

Instead, boom goes the dynamite.

Williams did no such thing. Completions were hard to come by and sacks and near interceptions were the thing. And I was disappointed. Shame on me. I expected the Bears rookie QB to skip several steps.

I know better. My superfan brain expected Williams to dominate in his very first practice for an organization that has never had a quarterback dominate. Ever.

Pure silliness. This was Williams going up against a real NFL defense for the first time, while he and his entire unit are learning a new offense, without Keenan Allen or Rome Odunze on the field. Check yourself.

The point of this isn’t to crush anyone’s hope or dreams. The hype is real. I still expect the Bears to win 11 games. I still expect Williams to win rookie of the year and set Bears QB records. But last Thursday is a reminder that developing a rookie quarterback comes with tons of growing pains and nothing will come easy.

Here’s the good news — that secondary I mentioned was out to make a point. They will have Williams earn everything in practice and with each mistake, they were chirping. If practices are hard, the games won’t be as big of a wake-up call. Williams will have already seen the best and heard the worst of the trash talk.

Jaylon Johnson just got paid and was running around practice like someone trying to earn his next check. It was a great sign that the payday will only inspire him more. Tyrique Stevenson added muscle and could be ready to make a big jump in his second year. And the dynamic duo of Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon should be core members of the Bears defense for years to come.

With the offense getting the bulk of the headlines, this secondary won’t let you forget they’re poised to be the heart and soul of this team. If I’m going to preach patience and process with Williams, I won’t go crazy with my next point, but I wasn’t thrilled to see Nate Davis and Velus Jones Jr. absent from Thursday’s practice. Both have a lot to prove in my world.

Davis was supposed to solidify the interior of the line after signing his free agent contract but only became more of a question mark after his inconsistent play and questionable practice habits. Now would be a good time for him show that he’s ready to scrub 2023 and get to work for 2024 and build chemistry with the offensive line, even though these workouts are optional.

Jones is playing for his football future, and with the wide receiver room improved, every rep he takes with the new offensive staff should be vital. Plus, his value could come with the new kickoff rules as the NFL is expecting to see an increase in returned kicks. The Bears work on this during every OTA and his presence would seem to be important. Jones could be a threat if he learns to hold onto the football.

Again, I won’t get too worked up over this because the media only gets a glimpse of one practice a week and Davis and Jones could’ve been present earlier during closed workouts. What’s never a question is DJ Moore. In his first Bears season last year, he practiced every day, optional or not.

Matt Eberflus noticed, saying, “Our best player is our hardest worker.”

In an end of session rep last week, the offense’s job was to set up a game-winning field goal with the clock running. Moore caught a pass, sprinted to hand the ball to the ref, and ran off the field into a full slide out of bounds so the kicking team could get on the field. All this in May, during an optional workout, and it should be good enough for the rest of a team that went 7-10.

There’s nothing optional with wanting to win. Our next glimpse of the Bears happens at Halas on Friday. It will be mandatory for me to check my super fan card at the door.

• Marc Silverman shares his opinions on the Bears weekly for Shaw Local. Tune in and listen to the “Waddle & Silvy” show weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 1000.

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