Matt Eberflus

It's time for the Bears to stop talking and start doing as they work to meet expectations

The Bears know they need to improve over the 2024 NFL season. And the only way to do it, is to do it

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Ever since the end of the regular season, when it became clear the Bears would have the opportunity to draft Caleb Williams, we’ve talked about the almost unbelievable sequence of events that needed to happen for the Bears to end up where they are now. From a meaningless Houston Texans Hail Mary and ensuing two-point conversion, to a now obviously lopsided trade with the Carolina Panthers, to the complete collapse of the Panthers in 2023. A lot went just right for the Bears to acquire not only Williams, but DJ Moore and Montez Sweat and Shane Waldron and Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze and Kevin Byard and and and.

We’ve talked a lot about the increased expectations that come with Williams and the host of talented players the Bears have put around him. This was a 7-10 team last year and the organization won’t shy away from expectations that they should win more this year, despite starting a rookie quarterback. Forget that C.J. Stroud’s rookie campaign with the same Texans who helped the Bears get Williams was one of the best rookie campaigns in NFL history– the precedent has been set and standards have changed. This is a league of instant gratification and the Bears expect to win now.

We’ve talked a lot about a Bears defense on the rise with Sweat supercharging the pass rush and a talented secondary turning into takeaway machines. Seemingly every player who took the podium over the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp referred to the “top-five” defense the Bears have. That “top-five” defense is expected to help Williams develop by challenging him on a daily basis. That “top-five” defense is expected to frustrate opponents and set up the offense in favorable situations. That “top-five” defense aims to intimidate others and set the tone for the rest of the team.

We’ve talked and talked and talked. But the time for talk is done.

“We shouldn’t be waiting anymore,” said Jaquan Brisker. “It’s time to win now. Our time is now, for sure. I don’t want to be talking about it too much or anything like that, but we’re going to get it done this year.”

The Bears were similarly confident in themselves last season. It was year two in Luke Getsy’s offense. The defense talked a big game about reaching a new level. Obviously things didn’t play out the way they expected.

Injuries took their toll, both on offense and defense. There were numerous off-field distractions, like the sudden departures of defensive coordinator Alan Williams and running backs coach David Walker. The team didn’t find its footing until the second half of the season, and by then it was too late. The defense believes it can not only pick up where it left off, but take things to a new level.

“Last year coming in we were still trying to understand the scheme a little bit so it was a little bit more stagnant,” said T.J. Edwards. “But I think this year we started off with a bunch of disguises and a bunch of movement and things like that to see what we can do.”

“It's a blessing to see how far we came,” said Jaylon Johnson. “I think, too, just last year leaving a lot on the table early in the season and now being able to pick up where we left off at last year is a good feeling. I feel like even adding Kevin (Byard), adding his veteran IQ to the game, calling out things, is allowing us to play faster and be on the same page.”

But again, talk is talk. That’s not to say talk is cheap. Head coach Matt Eberflus doesn’t believe that. But it’s just talk.

“It comes down to what we do on the grass, right?” Eberflus said. “It’s gotta be shown out there. I believe in saying it and being confident and all those things, but it’s in the doing. It’s not in the talking about it. It’s important that we understand that so that when we start to perform with our pads on, guess what? We have to be who we say we’re gonna be.”

After Thursday’s practice the Bears veterans will be dismissed for summer break. Rookies return for a short minicamp next week before their break. Then the team returns for training camp in mid-July. It’s at training camp where the work intensifies. Pads come on for the first time. The rate of practices picks up, and Eberflus can incorporate “live” tackling at times– if he chooses. There will be a joint practice with the Bengals and preseason games. Jobs will be won and jobs will be lost. We’ll find out much more about the team at training camp than we have over the past month or so of minicamps.

“You can’t control how people think about you, you can’t control what they say, you can’t control where you were born, when you were born, you can’t control all the past,” said Eberflus. “But you can control right here and right now.”

It’s time for the Bears to put in the work to realize their potential.

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