Eberflus outlines what Jones Jr. needs to play offense


Velus Jones Jr. had an NFL debut to forget. The rookie wide receiver finally made it on the field against the Giants after missing the first three games of the season due to a hamstring injury, and his biggest impact on the game hurt the Bears. Jones Jr. worked as the team’s sole punt and kick returner, but wasn’t very noticeable until he muffed a punt with just over two minutes left in the game.

When the Bears drafted Jones Jr. the hope was he could be a playmaker both in the return game, and in the offense as someone who could stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. With the Bears struggling to find impactful players in their passing game, many expected Jones Jr. to get a real opportunity to help Justin Fields. But when Jones Jr. was finally cleared to play last Sunday, he never made it onto the field for an offensive snap.

“I just think it’s building upon where he’s at,” said Matt Eberflus about what Jones Jr. needs to do to play on offense. “Once we know that he’s good to go and solid, we’ll start building him in there as we go. But it will be a smaller role and a bigger role and if he improves and goes. We’ll just keep building it.”

It’s another ramp up period of sorts for the Bears, who have routinely brought players along slowly if they’ve missed significant time. It’s a challenge for anyone who was absent for large portions of training camp, only played in one preseason game, then missed three regular season games in a row. It’s even harder for a rookie trying to find his footing in the league.

“You're trying to learn the playbook, you're trying to do everything right and not have anybody on your back, and have everybody trust you and believe you,” said Darnell Mooney. “I can see it's definitely a mental thing, but he handles it well. He's always speaking up a lot when we're in meetings and talking. As soon as the questions go out, he's the first person to answer.”

It’s unclear how much longer it will take Jones Jr. to prove himself to his coaches, but he has a bit to go until he’s fully healthy, too.

“I don't think he was 100%,” Mooney said. “Even for that game he's probably about 90, 88 or whatnot.”

Whatever it takes, Mooney is confident that Jones Jr. is giving it his all to make as positive of an impact as he can, as soon as he can.

“He came out there, he fought for us… he was just trying to be a threat to whatever he can be on the special teams. It's definitely a mental challenge, especially as a rookie.”

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