Daniels, Williams Getting First NFL Reps In OTAs, Minicamps

2023 Heisman winner Jayden Daniels in Washington Commander workouts this spring. Credit: Washington Commanders.

The two newest members of the Heisman Fraternity to join the NFL — Chicago’s Caleb Williams and Washington’s Jayden Daniels — are nearing their first summer break at work following a series of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) as well as mini-camps with their respective team.

And as expected, there are growing pains at their new jobs but also plenty of effusive praise from co-workers who are excited about their talent, work ethic and potential.

The Bears, in fact, completed their mandatory minicamp last week following their handful of OTAs in the final two weeks of May.

Williams’ teammates are impressed with the 2022 Heisman winner.

Said Bear linebacker Jaquan Brisker, a leader on Chicago’s starting defense that faced Williams each outing: “You can tell that he has something in his notebook every single day. He’s really focused and locked in on his tools and his technique. He doesn’t let the outside noise affect him, which is good. He comes in every day and works very hard. You can tell he’s going through his progressions and things like that. He’s going through the right reads. Every single day it’s going quicker so he’s catching up. But also we are always going to give him different looks and things like that. That’s what we are going to do with every quarterback and we are going to make it tough. I feel like he’s doing a great job though.”

Check out this example of one of Williams’ early throws that has impressed teammates.

As for Williams, he’s coming in with ears and eyes wide open, in constant communication with Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus. Eberflus named Williams the Bears’ starting quarterback not long after he was drafted first overall in April.

2024 Chicago Bears rookie and 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams. Credit: Chicago Bears

Said Williams to Chicago media: ”First, I ask questions. I ask questions to coach. I ask about my progression, I ask where he wants me to be, where I should be, and then obviously I have my own goal set for myself and that’s to be perfect. Obviously, you strive for something like that, and you don’t ever reach it, but you keep striving for it.”

Eberflus told Bear media he likes what he sees from Williams and his work against the Bears’ top defense.

”We could do things differently where I say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have the ones go against the twos and the twos go against the ones. But I don’t like that. I don’t like it. I think that Caleb is a talent. A very good talent. His game will go to where it needs to be.” Eberflus said. 

“I want him to see that in front of him, the windows closing, the variation of what we do on defense, and I want him to see that day in and day out so that when he gets to play somebody else it will look, ‘OK, I’ve been there done that.’ That’s how we’re going to keep it.”

Daniels is currently in the middle of Washington’s mandatory minicamp that ends Thursday following nine days of OTAs in May and June.

Daniels, unlike Williams, has yet to be officially tabbed the Commanders’ starter. Also unlike Williams, Daniels has a Heisman Trophy slated to be his backup in 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.

Daniels, drafted second overall behind Williams, is taking over the reins from Sam Howell, who threw for nearly 4,000 yards a year ago but who is now a Seattle Seahawk.

So far, his teammates like what they see.

“(He) can sling it, man,” right tackle Andrew Wylie told Washington media. “He makes it look easy. (There is) something about his game that is just special. He is smiling, calling plays, making sure everyone’s on the same page, and it’s a special way that he commands the huddle and the respect of the group. I know it’s early, but I’m excited blocking for him.”

Said wide receiver Terry McLaurin: “He’s humble, but he’s confident in his ability. He’s played at the highest level. He’s played against really good competition, and he knows that he can make all the throws. He’s not putting the cart before the horse. He’s literally taking this thing day-by-day.”

Daniels, for his part, humbly concurs with the day-by-day approach.

“I ain’t a star quarterback yet,” he told media this week. “I got long way to go. I’m a rookie.”

But Washington Coach Dan Quinn sees the potential.

Quinn told Commander media: “Not only does the physical traits show up, it’s the work ethic. I think that through the years and through the season, you guys will feel that and see that.”

And it doesn’t hurt to have a veteran Heisman winner as a teammate in the QB room.

Said Mariota on serving as a mentor for Daniels: “I can provide a little bit of comfort knowing that you [need to] be your best version of yourself. Don’t worry about everything else. Don’t worry about the expectations. Just go out there and try to get better every day and the rest of it will fall into place.”

Washington’s first pre-season game is set for Aug. 10 at the New York Jets while Williams will have a bigger stage as Chicago takes on Houston in the NFL’s annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 1 in Canton, Ohio.