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How the Bears adjust defensively with no Justin Jefferson

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
October 11, 2023

LAKE FOREST — Matt Eberflus addressed reporters during his Wednesday morning press conference wearing his “Real Bears Fans Wear Pink” T-shirt.

Since 2008, Bears Care has “raised funds to benefit programs providing care, assistance and support to breast cancer patients and their families” with the “Real Bears Fans Wear Pink” shirts, according to the Chicago Bears website.

Here are three takeaways from Eberflus’ presser:

How Bears adjust defensively with no Justin Jefferson

The Vikings will be without their top playmaker in Justin Jefferson for their Week 6 matchup with the Bears. Jefferson was placed on IR with the hamstring injury he sustained in the Week 5 loss to the Chiefs.

Eberflus was asked how his defense will change with the No. 3 leading receiver in the league in terms of yards (571) out of the lineup.

“I mean you certainly adjust your scheme to a great player like that,” Eberflus said. “It’s always a handful of guys that you would do that for. So it allows you to play more basic, more solid on both sides as opposed to tilting your coverage one way or the other. So that’s the basic way of saying it without giving too much away. But I do believe it certainly allows you to play your base way that you normally play against a normal guy, normal people rather than playing against a guy that’s elite in the top two or three in the league, which he is.”

In two games last season against the Bears, Jefferson caught 16 passes for 192 yards — with 154 of those yards coming in the Week 5 matchup in Minnesota.

The Bears will take any breaks they can get, but Eberflus still wouldn’t say it’s a sense of relief.

“I mean, I don’t know if there’s any relief on defense, you’re always on edge, so you gotta make sure you have that sense of urgency to defend and play fast and to play physical,” Eberflus said. “So we’re always on edge that way.”

Impact of explosive plays

Believe it or not, but the Bears are ranked in top three in the league in explosive plays of 20 or more yards.

The offensive outputs against the Broncos and Commanders the past two weeks definitely helped boost that number, but what has been the biggest factor that has allowed the explosive plays to increase?

“I would just say us taking the shots down the field,” Eberflus said. “You look at last game. I know the guys made some plays or went for some plays and we ended up breaking off some big ones. I would just say the shots down the field, then guys executing the calls. We’ve just gotta continue to do that. Some are short runs and catches and some are shots down the field like the first third down we had. Those are designs and those have been executed well.”

Eberflus also mentioned that on the 50/50 balls downfield there needs to be a trust factor between Justin Fields and his intended target — which has primarily been DJ Moore. Eberflus acknowledged that he would like to see the other skill get involved in those deeps shots as well.

One of the reasons to get more players involved in creating those explosive plays is that defenses have to adjust when they are being executed.

“You do see it,” Eberflus said. “Now, we didn’t see that much of an adjustment last week. We saw a lot of single high the entire game and singled up on DJ, but we’ll see in different variations of shell coverages, we’ll see guys lean coverages certain ways, all the things that guys in the NFL do, but we will see that adjustment, for sure.”

Will Teven Jenkins start?

As Eberflus usually does he gave some updates on the team’s injuries for this week.

Roschon Johnson and Lucas Patrick- who could not finish the Thursday night game against the Commanders- are still in concussion protocol. Kyler Gordon and Doug Kramer are in the 21-day window to practice.

Patrick’s injury could impact how the offensive line shapes up for the matchup with the Vikings. Cody Whitehair originally started at left guard against the Commanders, but filled in at center after Patrick left the game.

Teven Jenkins and Ja’Tyre Carter rotated at left guard throughout the game. Jenkins made his 2023 season debut against the Commanders, and he showed no signs of rust. He didn’t allow a single pressure or sack in 37 offensive snaps — according to Pro Football Focus.

Despite Jenkins’ dominant performance, Eberflus left the door open about Jenkins starting at left guard against the Vikings.

“The rotation will be, we’re going to work through that during the process of this week but we certainly liked where he was last week in the game coming off of that long stint he had,” Eberflus said. “He heals fast and he healed well, which was really good for us. He did a nice job when he was in there.”

With Johnson still in concussion protocol and Khalil Herbert still dealing with an ankle injury, D’Onta Foreman is the next man up. The Bears also signed Darryton Evans off the Dolphins practice squad earlier in the week.

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