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5 things we learned from Bears offensive assistants

Bears receiver Darnell Mooney and quarterback Justin Fields
Bears receiver Darnell Mooney and quarterback Justin Fields

Bears offensive position coaches spoke to the media Wednesday at Halas Hall. Here are five things we learned from those sessions:

(1) Quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko has seen Justin Fields demonstrate a much greater understanding of the offense in his second year in the system.

"I think just his overall awareness of what we are doing and what defenses are trying to do to him," Janocko said. "I think he's really dove into that aspect of the game of just creating that overall awareness of how to have success with what we do and what teams try to do to defend him." 

Janocko added that Fields' familiarity with the system has been evident in the quarterback "getting everyone on the same page, being able to get into good plays and out of bad plays, and redirect things when needed."

Fields has further shown his leadership in the film room.

"The one thing that I respect about him is he's his own hardest critic," Janocko said. "When something doesn't go well, he never [hesitates] to own something. [He says], 'Yeah, that's me. I've got to do better.' And I think that's what real leaders do. They stand up and they say, 'Yeah, that's on me. I've got you.' And they're not afraid to say that in front of their peers, the whole offense or the team."

(2) Receivers coach Tyke Tolbert had high praise for Darnell Mooney's work ethic.

The veteran coach described Mooney, a fourth-year pro from Tulane, as "one of, if not the hardest workers I've coached in 21 years in the NFL."

"He's a really hard worker," said Tolbert, who served as receivers coach with the Cardinals (2003), Bills (2004-09), Panthers (2010), Broncos (2011-17) and Giants (2018-21) before joining the Bears in 2022.

"He does so much stuff away from the time that we have him, it's unbelievable. He comes up on his off days. I remember last year, [on a players' day off], with his helmet on, he'd go in there in the Walter Payton Center, [catching balls]. He studies a lot. He's always in the training room working on his body whether he was hurt or not last year. He works as hard as anybody I've ever been around. I can't think of a guy who worked harder than him that I've coached."

Since arriving in 2020 as a fifth-round draft pick from Tulane, Mooney has caught 182 passes for 2,179 yards and 10 touchdowns in 45 games. In training camp, he has shown no signs of the foot injury that sidelined him for the final five games last year.

"I think he's made remarkable strides, coming back from where he came from," Tolbert said. "[He] worked really hard all spring and summer. Now he's back into being his old self. He's playing three positions right now, which is challenging, but he can do it. He can handle it … He's doing great."

The Bears were back at practice Tuesday at Halas Hall as they prepare for Saturday's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field. Special guests at practice included former Bears running back Matt Forte and Reverend Jesse Jackson.

(3) Running backs coach David Walker is impressed with the perseverance D'Onta Foreman has shown throughout his career.

Foreman suffered two major injuries in his first three NFL seasons. But each of the last two years he excelled after taking over as the No. 1 running back—with the Titans in 2021 after Derrick Henry was injured and with the Panthers last year after Christian McCaffrey was traded to the 49ers.

"He's a competitive son of a gun," Walker said. "Things throughout his career haven't always been easy. He hasn't had, let's call it, the easy road traveled with injuries. He's dealt with having to be moved from team to team and I think those things are a part of his fiber and his personality, and maybe part of the chip that's on his shoulder."

In 2021, Foreman helped lead the Titans to the AFC South championship by rushing for 566 yards and three touchdowns the final nine games of the season. Last year in Carolina he established career highs in all rushing categories with 203 attempts, 914 yards and five TDs—and had five 100-yard games.

"He's found a way to be very, very productive in a lot of situations in his career," Walker said. "That was one of the things that was really, really attractive about him and the free agency process."

(4) Offensive line coach Chris Morgan lauded left tackle Braxton Jones for improving his game entering his second NFL season.

A 2022 fifth-round pick from Southern Utah, Jones not only started all 17 games as a rookie last year but was the only Bears player who played every snap. A year later, the valuable experience he gained in 2022 is evident.

"He's just a lot more confident," Morgan said. "Things have slowed down. Instead of just knowing his job, he can explain a concept now. He can explain how his job ties into the linemen next to him and the tight end if he's involved and the runner.

"He's quicker to understand when we go from this scenario to this scenario, whether it's a play call or it's a change from the quarterback or a picture that moves on defense. It's just maturity and growth. He's really put the work in. He's developing as a leader. We're proud of where he is at."

(5) Morgan is pleased with how right tackle Darnell Wright, a rookie first-round pick from Tennessee, is developing.

"He's doing a good job in the classroom," Morgan said. "He's doing a good job of learning how to be a pro. He's got some good examples of guys in the room kind of showing him. Braxton has done an excellent job mentoring, whatever you want to call that: 'Hey, this is what I went through. Hey, this is what will help you.'

"They've done a nice job with that. [Wright] has gotten better every day, settling down, learning the terminology, learning the expectations, you know, style of play. It's a little bit [of a] different game [at the NFL level]."