The Chicago Bears are preparing to play their final game of the preseason. They host the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field. After that, head coach Matt Eberflus, his coaching staff, and general manager Ryan Poles will review the roster and decide who stays and who goes.
Ahead of that, Eberflus gave the public some information on a number of issues. The first one is the pileup of injuries that the team is dealing with.
It seems that every day someone else is going down. There were reports that left guard Teven Jenkins could miss the first month of the season. Additionally, Nate Davis, Cody Whitehair, and Darnell Wright are each dealing with injuries. That is four of the five starting linemen. Just for kicks, backup center Lucas Patrick is also among the injured.
The offensive line is crucial for the Chicago Bears to have any success in 2023. Injuries could derail the hope that the team has for the unit.
The offensive linemen aren’t the only players who are dealing with injuries. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds just returned from an injury and safeties Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker have bumps and bruises.
HC Matt Eberflus gave an update on the Chicago Bears’ pileup of injuries, a difficult 2022 season, and his relationship with Justin Fields.
All of the players except for Jenkins and Wright are day-to-day. Jenkins is considered week-to-week while Eberflus did not say anything about Wright’s injury.
It is important to keep an eye on Wright. When the team says nothing about an apparent injury it might be serious. They were tight-lipped about Jenkins’ injured back in 2021 and he ultimately needed surgery.
Eberflus said the injuries could be looked at as opportunities for those backing up. They get a chance to see more reps and snaps as the medical personnel work hard to get the injured back on the field.
"What this gives us is an opportunity to see different combinations. We all know what we would like the starting lineup to look like with the guys that we have, but again, that’s gonna change during the course of the season….You want to be at full health at the start of the season and we’re going to look at that in a day-to-day basis."
On the challenges of a difficult season in 2022
The Chicago Bears were 3-14 in 2022, a franchise worst. They lost their last 10 games as well. Despite that, Eberflus saw positives. He was happy that the players and coaches still worked hard and did not get down after every loss. The players kept playing hard and weren’t down because of all of the losses.
Eberflus felt that the coaching staff laid down the foundation of his HITS principle well. He felt that the standards were set and now, going forward, those standards have to be met or exceeded.
"I believe that’s why we were competitive in a lot of the games — and we will be competitive in games — because of the style with which we played. That’s the foundation we laid last year: how we go about our business in meetings, how we go about our business on the practice field and how we play the games the right way."
While the Bears lost 14 games, they were competitive. There were eight games that were decided by one score. That was very good since the roster was void of a lot of talent. In those eight one-score games, the Bears lost seven. Now that the team has a lot more talent, those competitive games could become wins.
Eberflus noted that while this is a “win now” league and the fans demand wins, for everyone in the organization it is week-to-week. No matter what happens in one week, everyone has to forget it and deal with it the next week.
We all see now how general manager Ryan Poles is rebuilding the roster. Wins and losses were not the important thing with the team last season. Development was the key. Now, as Poles adds more talent, wins could be incorporated into their priorities.
Eberflus said he took the experiences he had working under different coaches who were steady in the face of mounting losses. He saw how steady they were and incorporated what they did.
On his relationship with Fields
Last season, Eberflus sat in on a lot of the offensive meetings. He is a defensive-minded coach so he wanted to learn what the offensive coaches and players want to do to succeed. Additionally, being there gave him a chance to learn more about his franchise quarterback, Justin Fields.
In spite of being considered a defensive guy, Eberflus did not want the separation of offense vs. defense. Thus, sitting with the offense helped take away the idea that he is just a “defense” guy.
Doing that helped set a good relationship between Eberflus and Fields. Fields understood that Eberflus wanted to grow and learn. It wasn’t just an “I am the coach and you are the player so do what I say” attitude. The two, along with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, would work together on building the offense.
Fields ended up trusting Eberflus quickly and they have a great relationship.
On having differing passions among players
The Chicago Bears spent the offseason acquiring the type of players that embody Eberflus’ HITS principle. They added players who played hard and smart. He was especially happy at having passionate players. However, there are different types of passion and all of them work.
Eberflus pointed out D.J. Moore and Fields as passionate players who weren’t the rah-rah guys. He likes how they are the hardest workers on the team. They are the first ones in Halas Hall and the last ones leaving. That sets an example for the other players, especially the young ones.
Then there are the vocal players. He noted that players like Chase Claypool, Edmunds, and Brisker are vocal and have a lot of emotion. They bring the emotions of the other players up. They pump their teammates.
On the second-year players stepping up
In 2022, the Chicago Bears had the most rookie snaps in the NFL by a large margin. Eberflus expects that experience to help them in Year 2. Those rookies last season got a lot more experience than other rookies did.
Now Eberflus wants those second-year players to step up. He expects them to take a leap forward and develop quickly. If they do, the Bears could surprise a lot of people in 2023.
In his second year as Chicago Bears head coach, Eberflus sees a much closer team. The coaches and the players went through a lot last season. They stayed together and grew. He sees more passion and emotion. He also sees better execution. Let’s see if the talent infusion goes well and the team adds more wins this season.