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Bears OC Shane Waldron eager to work with stacked offense


Shane Waldron was thrilled to land the Bears' offensive coordinator position in January, but his excitement level has only grown since he arrived at Halas Hall.

In recent months, general manager Ryan Poles has stocked the offense with explosive weapons, trading for receiver Keenan Allen, signing running back D'Andre Swift and tight end Gerald Everett in free agency and selecting quarterback Caleb Williams and receiver Rome Odunze with the first and ninth picks in the draft, respectively.

"From the day I began meeting with coach [Matt Eberflus] and Ryan, I thought the clear connection and the clear vision they had with where they wanted to keep going with this program felt comfortable," Waldron said Saturday at Bears rookie minicamp. "There was good, open and honest communication throughout the process. We were able to arrive at the spot we're at today with adding some talented players."

The prized acquisition was Williams, the first player chosen by the Bears with the No. 1 pick in the draft since halfback Bob Fenimore in 1947. Williams produced 120 touchdowns (93 passing and 27 rushing) in three seasons at Oklahoma (2021-22) and USC (2023) and won the Heisman Trophy in 2022.

Asked what intrigues him most about Williams on the field, Waldron said: "His arm talent and his ability to put the ball where it needs to be. That's evident from Day 1. Now it's about keeping the learning and progressing and keep moving forward with our system. The arm talent with what he's able to do is fun to watch."

While Williams' talent is easy to see on tape, the Bears spent the offseason getting to know him as a person. They met with the 22-year-old at the NFL Combine, his Pro Day in Los Angeles and a top-30 visit at Halas Hall. Those interactions convinced them to draft Williams and anoint him as their starting quarterback even before his first pro practice.

"He's an unbelievable human being," Waldron said. "Football's part of what makes him special, but there's a lot more outside that that makes him special as well. Right from the jump you get that initial meeting with someone [and feel], 'Alright, this guy's a pretty cool guy, we can move forward right now.'"

Having decided they'd draft Williams following his top-30 visit in early April, the Bears started to provide him and his private quarterback coach, Will Hewlitt, with information about their offense including cadence, terminology, route concepts and fundamentals. Having that head start enabled Williams to hit the ground running when he arrived at rookie minicamp Thursday.

"It was a great start and a great benefit to Caleb to be able to hear some of those things and be able to have somebody who was helping him out," Waldron said. "Around the league there's probably 5-6 different ways to call the exact same route in different systems. So before you get into scheme and the offensive breakdown, what are we calling certain footwork? What are we calling individual routes? And when you come into rookie minicamp and have a good grasp of that, now you can start to build on that foundation and move forward at a little quicker process."

Waldron has known Hewlitt for about six years, having first met at a camp for top high school quarterbacks.

"Any time you have a pre-existing relationship with somebody, you have a little more trust and understanding of how we're going to work together," Waldron said. "There is always a unique thing about the NFL where we have the players for a certain amount of time during the year, but there is also a good portion of individual time and time in the offseason, and having that comfort level with Will where after that 30-visit and those things where we could start getting him some information, he understands it and sees it well through a quarterback lens.

"He has done a great job of developing different quarterbacks along the way. And then this also gives a chance during the offseason and during time away to consistently work on the same approach for 12 months out of the year rather than just, 'we're here now and then you're off and then you're here now working on two different things.'"

Check out the action from the Halas Hall practice fields, where 43 players – including the Bears' 2024 draft class – participated in a pair of rookie minicamp practices.

Waldron enjoyed working with Williams at the Bears' three-day rookie minicamp, which consisted of two non-contact practices.

"With our interactions so far, his ability and desire to accept coaching and keep learning, keep listening has been excellent," Waldron said. "As he moves forward it's really more about the operation, building that foundation."

That foundation is rooted in communication.

"The plays, the schemes, those things will happen as we keep building an offense," Waldron said. "But right now, the core of it, each building in football, you speak so many different languages, and a lot of the words mean the same thing. But you've got to figure out what's our language? What's the language of the 2024 Chicago Bears?

"That's the main part of what we're doing right now, the main part of the process as we build forward to that final culmination of all the work we put in where on game day, when stuff is going on and we're talking to each other, we're using the terms that mean the same things to one another and there's no gray area and that communication can be at the highest level possible."

As a rookie, Williams will have the luxury of throwing to an elite receiving trio that's comprised of Allen, DJ Moore and Odunze. Their presence no doubt will allow Waldron to implement many of the three-receiver sets he utilized as Seahawks offensive coordinator the last three seasons.

"It just allows us to continue to be multiple, allows us to, on a week-by-week basis, see what might be a matchup advantage or something that we can look to lean on heavier towards," Waldron said.

"And with Cole [Kmet] and Gerald and the other tight ends and KB (Khari Blasingame) at fullback, we've got a lot of different pieces that we can utilize. So for us right now, this is the time of year where we're trying to figure out how is everyone going to carve out their individual role for this 2024 offense?

"The more good players you can surround yourself with, the better you're going to be as a coach. So it's been a tremendous offseason of being able to do that and add different pieces, and then the guys that are returning, they're continuing to learn and grow and become better players as well. It will be fun to have all these different players and figuring out what their roles will be for the season."