What does Bears QB Caleb Williams have to work on right now?

Rookie minicamp begins next week at Halas Hall

Chicago Bears No. 9 draft pick wide receiver Rome Odunze, left, and No. 1 draft pick quarterback Caleb Williams, right, hold up jerseys as they pose for a photo during an NFL football news conference in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, April 26, 2024.

Caleb Williams will wear his No. 18 practice jersey for the first time next week.

The Bears begin rookie minicamp May 10, and it will be the first look at the No. 1 overall draft pick on the practice field. There will be plenty of milestones for Williams over the next few months: first practice, first training camp, first preseason game – all leading up to the regular season.

Williams is going to be the talk of the town this summer. He legitimately has a chance to be one of the biggest stars in Chicago sports since Derrick Rose, Anthony Rizzo or Patrick Kane.

And his journey will start with the basics.

With any rookie quarterback in the NFL, even one taken with the first pick in the draft, it starts with the basics. College quarterbacks have never had a play call read to them over an in-helmet radio (although college football is adapting such radios in 2024). They’ve never had to bark out play calls as long as NFL play calls. At the college level, many college programs call plays via hand signals from the sideline.

For every rookie QB, even Williams, that will be an adjustment.

“It’s really just the operation, right?” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said when asked about getting Williams up to speed. “He’s going to have to operate the offense. He’s going to have to spit the calls. He’s going to have to be clean with his cadence and just operate in the offense.”

A quarterback has to know the offense better than anyone else on the field. It’s going to take time for Williams to master the Bears’ offense at that level.

Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and quarterbacks coach Kerry Joseph likely will work with Williams on his footwork, too. Williams played almost exclusively in the shotgun at USC, as many college offenses prefer these days.

The basic building blocks of the Bears’ offense under Waldron should look somewhat similar to the Bears’ offense under former coordinator Luke Getsy. Waldron and Getsy come from similar offensive coaching trees. The Bears, likely, will still be a run-first offense that will use the quarterback under center a good amount of the time.

That will be an adjustment for Williams.

“If it’s in the huddle, from the no-huddle and all the situations, he’s going to have to play point guard,” Poles said. “That’s what he does. Distribute the ball.”

If it’s in the huddle, from the no-huddle and all the situations, he’s going to have to play point guard. That’s what he does. Distribute the ball.”

—  Ryan Poles, Bears general manager

For Williams, rookie minicamp is all about installing the offense and becoming familiar with the Bears. The veterans won’t show up until OTAs begin May 20. That’s when he can start building his rapport with veteran receivers DJ Moore and Keenan Allen.

The spring will be about learning the playbook and learning his new teammates. It’s a steppingstone toward training camp in late July.

Head coach Matt Eberflus said his only expectation of Williams at this point is for the rookie to put in the work.

“Get to work, and he’s going to do that,” Eberflus said. “He’s got to take one day at a time, get to work, go through the process, get to know his teammates, get the relationships going with every single guy.”

There will, no doubt, be a learning curve for Williams. There is for most rookies. But the Bears have set up Williams well to succeed quickly. That’s why they shipped off Justin Fields to Pittsburgh in March. Williams will see all the first-team reps. There’s no ambiguity about who the starting quarterback is.

That doesn’t mean Williams won’t go through some ups and downs, but the rookie isn’t overly worried about it.

“I don’t think about it, to be honest with you,” Williams said. “I think about just doing my job, handling the things that I can handle, dealing with the small things, holding everybody accountable and everybody holding me accountable, showing up to work every day ready to go and to have fun doing [it]. If growing pains do come around, it happens with a lot of players. You deal with it in that moment.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.