LAKE FOREST – Pretty quickly after becoming Bears offensive coordinator, Luke Getsy reached out to free agent receiver Equanimeous St. Brown.
“Right away, the Bears were on my list of teams I wanted to go,” St. Brown said Saturday. “Then, ultimately, it came down to what’s best for me, and this was the best fit.”
The 25-year-old wide receiver spent the previous four years with the Green Bay Packers. For the past three seasons, Getsy was the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay. Now, Getsy holds the keys to the Bears’ offense and is implementing a scheme similar to what the Packers run under head coach Matt LaFleur.
That familiarity with the coach and the system was a huge draw for St. Brown. A 2018 sixth-round draft pick, St. Brown showed some promising upside as a rookie, catching 21 passes for 328 yards, but he never matched those totals again. He missed the 2019 season with an ankle injury and found himself buried on the depth chart in 2020 and 2021.
He joins a Bears receiving group that has multiple spots up for grabs. St. Brown doesn’t blame anyone but himself for why things went wrong in Green Bay.
“In Green Bay, they gave good opportunities there,” St. Brown said. “If you get your opportunities, you’ve got to make the most of them. I got hurt my second year, so I got set back a little bit, but I’m back on track now.”
A year ago, the Packers waived St. Brown after he didn’t initially make the 53-man roster coming out of training camp. After clearing waivers, St. Brown signed a practice squad deal with Green Bay, essentially a demotion. St. Brown did eventually wind up back on the active roster, but it took some time.
In Getsy’s eyes, watching how St. Brown handled that adversity said a lot.
“I always liked EQ and thought he was good player,” Getsy said. “Then I saw him go through that adversity and the way he handled all that stuff, that’s what these guys are all leaning on. That leadership and that experience that he went through, that’s super for us.”
Knowing the offense is a big plus. St. Brown has been a go-to source for some of the other receivers who have questions about the system. That previous experience in the offense could give St. Brown a leg up at a crowded receiver position.
At 6-foot-5, 214 pounds, St. Brown is the tallest of the Bears’ receivers. The team did recently add more size by trading for 6-4, 225-pound N’Keal Harry earlier this month.
St. Brown’s size showed in a training camp practice Friday, when the Bears put an emphasis on red zone reps. He made several catches near the end zone. On one during a scramble drill, quarterback Justin Fields escaped pressure and put the ball high in the air, where only St. Brown could catch it. St. Brown grabbed the ball over a much smaller defensive back.
Attendance: Offensive linemen Lucas Patrick and Teven Jenkins were absent Saturday, as was cornerback Thomas Graham Jr.
Patrick is expected to miss some time with a hand injury. Jenkins and Graham are out for unspecified reasons. Defensive lineman Angelo Blackson was present Saturday but not participating. It was likely an extra day of rest for the veteran.
Linebacker Roquan Smith continues to sit out practice, although he is present. Smith is on the physically unable to perform list, but he also is pressuring the Bears to sign him to a contract extension.
A new rushing attack: With Getsy’s new offense comes a new run-blocking scheme. The Bears are hard at work implementing these new techniques. Getsy’s offense should be moving laterally more to create space for the running backs. That’s why general manager Ryan Poles wanted his linemen to be lighter and quicker.
Much of that work already happened during the offseason. Veteran guard Cody Whitehair said he dropped some weight. His fellow linemen look quicker, even early on.
“You see it across the scale too,” Whitehair said. “Guys are definitely where they need to be, and you’re seeing that help them on the field, they’re able to move around a little better and sustain their blocks a little bit better.”
For the running backs, there should be a lot of reading and reacting to what’s happening ahead of them. Second-year running back Khalil Herbert said the basic points of emphasis don’t change. They still have to take care of the football and hit their landmarks on the field.
“I feel like we’re going to excel in this system, especially,” Herbert said. “The whole thing and how we operate and with Justin [Fields] in the backfield with us too is just – I’m excited.”
Calmer Williams: Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams installed a certain pressure for his defense Friday night. When the players ran it Saturday morning in practice, it didn’t go to plan.
A decade ago, that would’ve been the type of thing that set off Williams. The now 52-year-old coach has changed a lot since his first go-around as a defensive coordinator. He spent two seasons as the coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings from 2012-13 under former head coach Leslie Frazier.
With a second opportunity at the job, Williams believes he has mellowed out quite a bit – in a good way.
“I would have jumped the coach and the player,” said Williams, who was 42 when he first became a coordinator. “I would have been super stern. Now, it’s Day 4 [of training camp], and that was the first time that guy ran that in practice. And so there are going to be some mistakes.”
Williams is a protege of Tony Dungy, for whom he worked from 2001-08. He learned a ton from the ever calm, cool and collected Dungy. While many of Dungy’s defensive concepts live on through Williams and other coaches around the NFL, so too do the things Dungy taught off the field.
Williams believes he makes better connections with his players now than he did a decade ago.
“They get to know not just coach Williams, they get to know Alan Williams,” Williams said. “So when the guys get to know you, I think that they play for you. Not that the guys didn’t before, but now they get to see me as a person, not just as a coach.”