Jordan Love

Why Justin Fields is key weapon in Bears' new-look D-line's prep for Jordan Love

"The best thing for us, we face a phenomenal athlete every day"

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jordan Love didn't use his legs much in college at Utah State. In three seasons with the Aggies, Love rushed 170 times for 403 yards and nine touchdowns.

During his three NFL seasons spent sitting behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Love has rushed just 13 times for 26 total yards.

But don't let the numbers fool you. The Bears know Love's legs will be a weapon the Packers utilize Sunday in the season opener at Soldier Field.

"We think Love is very athletic," head coach Matt Eberlfus said Wednesday at Halas Hall. "We think he's got good escapability. He's got the ability to move in and out of the pocket. He's exhibited that when he's been in there. And certainly, on his college tape, he did, too. He's a very good athlete."

Facing Love will be a good challenge for a defensive line that hasn't been whole during training camp. Edge rusher DeMarcus Walker missed the better part of three weeks with a calf injury, while Yannick Ngakoue spent August ramping up after being signed one week into training camp.

The Bears know what type of talent Ngakoue, Walker, Justin Jones, and Andrew Billings have, but they don't have a clear picture of how those four will work together on Sunday. Getting an unknown quantity in Love right out of the chute will be a big Week 1.

"You feel it, but you really don’t know until...the whole thing about rushing together where we say four equals one and we rush with four men through six rush lanes, it’s not as easy as it sounds," defensive line coach Travis Smith said Thursday. "Especially in today’s age, you’ve got running quarterbacks, they’ve got to work together, they’ve got to trust each other, they’ve got to feed off each other, they’ve got to cover each other, they’ve got to work together. That takes practice. That’s not just something you draw on a board, and I show them, and we talk about it, that’s got to be reps and reps and reps.

"We’ve seen a little bit here and there when we’ve had the group together, but it’s gonna have to take time to make sure that this thing is fluid and confident where ... they’re building relationships, too. They’re getting to know each other, too, and the biggest thing is trust. Trust with each other that they know that the man next to them is going to handle his responsibility."

Facing Love on Sunday will be a proving ground for the Bears' new-look defensive line.

But while Love is somewhat of an unknown commodity, the Bears believe they have the best preparation tool in the NFL for what the Packers young quarterback might bring Sunday -- Justin Fields.

"I would say the best thing for us, we face a phenomenal athlete every day," Smith said. "No matter who we’re preparing for, when we go ones versus ones versus Justin, the most dangerous athlete on the field is him. It’s been from day one. It’s not like all of a sudden we play Green Bay, and we’ve got to worry about how we’ll rush this quarterback. We’ve done it since OTA 1 with Justin."

To prepare for Love, the Bears are keeping it simple. They aren't focusing on what Love is, isn't, or might be. Instead, they are spending their time pouring over the history of Matt LaFleur's offense to find tendencies in his game plan against defensive schemes similar to the one Eberlfus runs.

The Bears will be ready for Love, but they know they can't spend too much time preparing for an unknown.

“What we’re trying not to do is hunt up too many ghosts and say we think he’s going to do this, we think this going to happen, we think they are going to do these things," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "What we have to focus on is what Gren Bay has done up until this point and then see what they’ve done, and then look at Love in the preseason and see what he does well. The things that he does well, he gets the ball out of his hand, he throws a phenomenal deep ball, outside he has great touch, it seems like he makes good decisions, fast decisions, fast processor and so we’re just trying to look at what they’ve done in the past, what they have done in the preseason and just go from there."

It's impossible to know everything that Love will throw at them Sunday. But should he escape the pocket and take off, the Bears will prepared to track him down and keep the damage to a minimum.

Daily battles against Justin Fields, the best athlete on the field, have prepared them for that.

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