LAKE FOREST — Cole Kmet had his hands on his knees. The third-year Bears tight end was winded Friday.
“That was probably the hardest practice I’ve ever been a part of,” Kmet said after practice at Halas Hall. “That’s not a joke.”
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus is keeping his word. The Bears are running. It’s not so much running sprints like in the movies, but it’s running between practice periods and playing at a high tempo during those practice periods.
“That was a deep practice with a lot of plays,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “I think our guys got a little tired towards the end of that thing and the execution fell off. But I thought where we were that first half of practice, that’s where we’ve got to go.”
Everything is a work in progress right now. Few roster spots are secure. Getsy was excited to go back and watch the practice film and see which players could handle the pace and which players couldn’t.
The offense still has much to work out, but what has been clear is that quarterback Justin Fields’ top two targets are most definitely receiver Darnell Mooney and Kmet. Those three young stars spent a lot of time working out together over the offseason.
There’s a lot of questions surrounding who will be the No. 2 receiver behind Mooney, but in reality the No. 2 target is most likely going to be the tight end from Lake Barrington.
“He’s got to get better at just about everything, because I think he’s on the brink, right now, of taking his game to another level,” Getsy said. “So I am hopeful that by the time we get through this camp, he is ready to be a rock star for us, because we’re going to need him to be.”
Kmet caught 60 passes for 612 yards last season. He emerged as the team’s best tight end and his connection with Fields is only going to improve with a full offseason together.
Kmet said Friday that he’s really comfortable in his understanding of Getsy’s offense and his ability to read the defense’s coverages. That has allowed him to play fast. Kmet has been one of Fields’ favorite targets, especially in traffic in the middle of the defence.
Mooney has noticed that Kmet makes a lot of noise on the field.
“I don’t think he’s lost a one-on-one rep yet,” Kmet said. “He’s owning, like, ‘I’m ready to let everybody know who I am.’ He’s definitely turning it on.”
One-on-one drills against the defensive backs and linebackers have given Kmet a chance to test out some of the new skills in his arsenal. He spends a lot of time focusing on the minutiae of his releases and his routes.
“I get a lot of opportunities to try out these different tools and that’s really exciting,” Kmet said. “I’m not afraid to go out and try stuff. It may not work all the time, and that’s all right, but I’m OK failing here or there just to see how it works.”
Attendance: Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon, cornerback Kindle Vildor, cornerback Duke Shelley and pass rusher Robert Quinn did not practice Friday. Gordon, Vildor and Shelley were present on the sidelines. Quinn wasn’t. All four had been regular participants earlier in the week. Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. (hamstring), center Lucas Patrick (hand) and tackle Teven Jenkins (undisclosed) were not present.
Rookie tight end Chase Allen and veteran defensive tackle Angelo Blackson returned to practice after sitting out several days.
During practice, tackle Julie’n Davenport appeared to suffer a leg injury. He walked off the field under his own power with the trainer.
Jenkins update: Jenkins remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury, even as the NFL Network reported last week that the team was potentially looking to trade him. If Jenkins truly is dealing with an injury, he’s missing valuable practice time.
Getsy said Friday that Jenkins has been attentive during meetings and that the second-year tackle is “all in.”
“When he gets back, he’s someone who’s super talented, that should jump in there and, hopefully, he takes advantage of the opportunities he’s going to get,” Getsy said.
Jenkins hasn’t practiced since July 27.
Transactions: The Bears waived defensive back Jon Alexander and defensive lineman Auzoyah Alufohai and signed two veteran free agents: defensive lineman Trevon Coley and cornerback Davontae Harris.
A 2018 fifth-round draft pick of the Bengals, Harris has appeared in 36 NFL games over four seasons, including nine starts, during stints with five different teams.
Coley went undrafted out of Florida Atlantic in 2016. He has appeared in 44 career games, making 31 starts, for three different teams. As a member of the Titans last season, Coley missed the entire season with a foot injury. He has not appeared in an NFL game since 2020.