Bears coaches on improvements, preparation for Vikings

Bears coaches on improvements, preparation for Vikings

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - Despite the turmoil that has made many headlines since the beginning of the season in Chicago, the Bears are still in contention after getting their first win of the season on Thursday Night Football against the Washington Commanders. Now, they’ll look to keep the momentum rolling by facing off against their division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings.

While the Commanders game was certainly promising, if the Bears are going to beat the Vikings or any other team this season, they are going to need to find ways to spread the ball around more. In that victory, only three Chicago players had a reception - DJ Moore and the two tight ends, Cole Kmet and Robert Tonyan.

According to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, that is not something that is going to continue.

“It’s really important for us to have a lot of people involved in our game plan and our process. So, we have a lot of guys that we can get involved. It’s a good group of receivers around DJ, and then you have our tight-end group and our backs as well. So, we feel really good about that,” Getsy said. “If we’re going to go where we want to go, we’re not going to be a one-man show.”

Back during the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears used their second fourth-rounder to draft receiver Tyler Scott out of Cincinnati. While Scott has not been involved too much in the offense thus far, only playing 20 percent of the snaps, he is one person that Getsy has high hopes for as the season goes on. Further, he also has the ability to help with the goal of spreading the ball around because of his versatility and speed.

“For a young guy to be able to come in, and the guy wasn’t even a receiver very much,” Getsy said. “So, for him to be able to pick up all of his assignments and to be able to get in our run game and be able to do all that dirty work and then in the pass game, be able to (line) him up at so many different positions. I think it’s now just, hopefully, as the season continues to go, you see more opportunities show up for him.”

Besides the running back position, the team is getting healthier overall, including at offensive line. Week five marked the first game of the season where Teven Jenkins was able to play, and he held his own at left guard. Rookie Darnell Wright has also gotten better in the past few games. The combination of these two aspects of the o-line is helping to create some continuity on the line and thus helping them protect quarterback Justin Fields.

“Darnell is a great talent. He’s a powerful guy, athletic,” Getsy said. “I think the cool part about him is he’s settling into playing the position assignment-friendly. So, you got week one or two where maybe there was some missed assignments and stuff, and so all that stuff is just kind of, he’s figuring out his game. He’s figuring out the system. He’s figuring out how to play next to somebody and that’s really important.”

In all fairness, Chicago should have a two-game win streak right now. They had a 21-point lead against the Denver Broncos, whose defense has been dismal for the most part, and when they are doing well, the offense cannot get it together. That is precisely what happened to the Bears when they played the Broncos, as the defense was dismal in the second half. One problem has been the lack of turnovers generated. Chicago only has a total of four turnovers, half of those coming against Washington. Nonetheless, cornerbacks coach and passing game coordinator Jon Hoke is confident the defense can get this turned around.

“You have to have a strong belief system as a coaching staff, and obviously, that’s here with Coach Eberflus. I was fortunate when I was here before,” Hoke said. “That was obviously a huge emphasis, and we had guys that (it) was on their mind all the time. They were very mindful of taking the ball away, and that’s what’s the same thing here.”

One thing that should help is the return of some of the Bears' key defensive players - cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Jaylon Johnson and safety Eddie Jackson. Between the three of them, they had seven interceptions last season. To make things a little easier, they will not have to face elite receiver Justin Jefferson. Still, Hoke says that is no reason for the defense to take their foot off the gas.

“All credit to Justin Jefferson. He’s a very good football player. But, this is pro football and they’re going to have guys step up … just as our guys have stepped up. They’ll have guys step up and so, if you relax or think it’s going to be different, it’s not,” Hoke said. “It’s pro football. Everybody’s really good at this level and so, they may not have the guy that is their highlighter, so to keep. But they have other guys that are very capable.”

Of course, you have to prepare for a team in all three phases of the game. In special teams, the Vikings have been known to use some trickery sometimes, such as their fake punt on fourth-and-two last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. They were able to gain 15 yards on the play and the drive ultimately culminated in a five-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Jordan Addison. Thus, this is an extra element that special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has to prepare his unit for.

“You just prepare for it by reading your keys, reading your keys and being disciplined and playing disciplined ball and everybody has them,” Hightower said. “I mean, every special teams has them. It’s just a matter of when you use them. We have a ton of them. Other people have a ton of them.”

There is some rain expected in Chicago for the game Sunday against Minnesota (Noon / FOX), making it yet another added level of preparation for this game for Hightower and the rest of the coaching staff. While the Bears usually have practices with wet balls, this is something they emphasized more in practice this week. Further, they have made sure to get kicker Cairo Santos outside, even in inclement weather if possible, to prepare him to kick in these conditions. In Hightower’s opinion, this gives the Bears a leg up in this upcoming game.

“No matter what the weather is, no matter how cold it is, no matter if it’s raining. As long as safety (permits), we’re going outside at all costs,” Hightower said. “So, I do feel like we have a little of an advantage over a team that doesn’t do that on a weekly basis.”

There is a lot on the line in this game. First, the winner of this game will be tied with the Green Bay Packers at two wins, while the loser will be alone in last place in the division. Further, the Bears have yet to win a division game with Matt Eberflus as the head coach. If Eberflus wants to keep his job after this season, which has already started to become a question, he needs a division victory.

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