The Chicago Bears are in full swing in training camp. They’ve had about two weeks of practice, The coaching staff has a better idea of who is doing well and who is struggling. Now they are also preparing for their preseason opener this weekend. They open the preseason schedule by hosting the Tennessee Titans.
The players finally get to hit players other than their teammates. They also get to fight for their jobs in a game situation. Certain players fight for starting jobs while others fight to win a roster spot.
General manager Ryan Poles did an incredible job of overhauling the roster. Yes, the Chicago Bears finished with a record of 3-14, worst in the NFL. However, the 2023 version of the Bears looks completely different. Last season’s version was devoid of talent in key positions. This year’s version is loaded with talent and offers the coaches a lot of flexibility in how they can run the offense and defense.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and his coaching staff now have the attention. Eberflus recently spoke with the media on a number of items, including injuries and how key players are doing in training camp.
Eberflus gave information on several issues. In the past few practices, the team suffered through some injuries. The injury situation is something that could destroy whatever optimism Poles and his staff gained with their moves.
The defense in particular has been hit with the injury bug. Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Jack Sanborn, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, cornerback Kyler Gordon, and safeties Jaquan Brisker and Eddie Jackson are all dealing with injuries. Additionally, offensive lineman Teven Jenkins, who has had several injuries throughout his two seasons in the league, was also dealing with an injury.
This is what he said about the injuries:
"There’s nothing there that’s long-term. But like we talked about the other day, I think you asked the question about the continuity. That is a concern. When you miss practices you can’t get better. So those guys are injured right now and we’re working them back and we have a really good staff with (Bears trainer Andre Tucker) and our performance staff to get them back. When they’re back they’ll get in there."
Eberflus feels that the injuries are not serious. They will force the players to miss some time, but none of those injuries are of concern long-term. His one concern is that each day they are on the sidelines they aren’t on the field getting better. There are a lot of new faces and they want to work together as much as possible so they have chemistry once the real games begin.
On a struggling rookie defensive lineman:
One player Poles drafted to be a key player on the defense was defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. Dexter is the future of the Chicago Bears defense. During OTAs, mandatory minicamp, and early on in training camp, he looked like the future was closer than they expected.
Then, when the pads came on, Dexter showed that he was a rookie who is still trying to figure things out. He has struggled recently.
To be fair, the Chicago Bears are asking Dexter to play differently than he did at the University of Florida. In college, the coaches asked him to mirror offensive linemen. In Chicago, he now has to attack the lineman and create havoc.
The coaching staff wants him to explode off the snap and put pressure up the middle. If he does that, then the defensive ends would have more territory to work and get to the quarterback more easily. That was something that the defense lacked last season.
Dexter has the ability to do what the coaching staff asks. He is immensely athletic and quick for a big man. He had some success the few times the Florida coaches asked him to attack. He just has to get accustomed to attacking linemen who are also big and athletic. It may take some time for him to be completely comfortable. As Eberflus noted, Dexter is getting better as he has more reps.
On the excitement of having Moore on the team
Ever since Poles traded the number one pick to the Carolina Panthers for multiple draft picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore, there was a great deal of excitement.
Moore is one of the top receivers in the league. He will be able to help greatly in quarterback Justin Fields’ development. Last season, other than Darnell Mooney, Fields didn’t have a wide receiver he could truly depend on. Then he lost Mooney due to injury.
Now Fields has Moore who can make incredible plays.
The hype around the FIelds-Moore connection is high. In training camp, the hype is only getting bigger. Eberflus is buying that hype.
"He’s just quicker than I thought he was. He really captures space well and separation. Those are the things that I see out there…That elusiveness that he has. And then that catch at the end, the ability to stop, put his right foot in the ground, come back falling down and make the play, that’s concentration and quickness and the ability that he has."
On Fields’ development
Speaking of Fields, Eberflus is happy with his practices during training camp so far. He sees a big difference today from last season. With a lack of talented wide receivers, Fields had trouble trusting that those receivers could make plays.
Things are different now, however. With Moore, a healthy Mooney, and Chase Claypool having an entire offseason to learn the offense and gain chemistry with Fields, the trust is forming.
Eberflus is impressed by what Fields is doing.
"I can see that growing and growing and growing. Guys are where they’re supposed to be. He knows that. He knows the rhythm and timing of that. And then (they’re making) the adjustments off that."
It is great to see such high hopes surrounding the Chicago Bears. We haven’t seen this in the team in quite a while.
Yes, it’s easy to have hope at this time of the year. However, there are a number of teams that have no hope of having even a decent season, The Chicago Bears have been one of them for a long time now. Things are not the same anymore, though. It seems that a sleeping giant is about to wake up.