Bears News: Matt Eberflus on facing Falcons, Teven Jenkins’ improvement

Bears News: Matt Eberflus on facing Falcons, Teven Jenkins’ improvement

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - The Bears’ matchup against the Atlanta Falcons this coming Sunday (Noon/CBS) has playoff implications for Atlanta and draft implications for Chicago as the Falcons are still in contention for the NFC South and the Bears most likely cannot make the playoffs.

However, going into the game, the Bears have some injuries to deal with. First, offensive lineman Teven Jenkins is still in concussion protocol but was able to practice in full on Wednesday, while fellow offensive lineman Lucas Patrick did not participate in practice with a knee injury. Tight end Cole Kmet also did not practice as he is receiving treatment for the knee injury he suffered against the Cardinals. Finally, receiver Darnell Mooney, self-reported concussion symptoms on Monday and is now in protocol.

The Falcons clearly have more to play for as far as postseason implications. Sitting at 7-8, they are one game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Atlanta made a quarterback change last week with Taylor Heinecke, who threw for 229 yards and a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in their 29-10 rout last week.

“Obviously, got a very strong roster on both sides of the ball. On defense, obviously, they’re in the top five, top ten in a lot of categories on defense, and (Jessie) Bates, their free safety, has six interceptions now. Obviously, a very strong player,” head coach Matt Eberflus said. “They’re strong at every level - corner, outside number 24 (AJ Terrell) does a really good job. Linebackers are very active. D-line’s very active. Obviously, you can see that in their run-stopping numbers, and how they approach the game. On offense, obviously very explosive at running the ball, obviously one of the (top) in the league.”

In the passing game, they spread the ball pretty evenly against Indianapolis. However, throughout the season, they have relied the most on receiver Drake London. He is leading the team in receiving with 808 yards but only has two touchdowns.

Currently, he is sitting at 13.2 yards per reception, making him the biggest threat for the Bears to watch out for.

“London’s done a nice job with 61 catches, and they really have four main targets,” Eberflus said. “Those guys are very talented in what they do. You saw the game, they had their highest point total last week with 29 against the Colts and had a really good game against those guys. Also very strong at the special teams level.”

Technically, Chicago is in playoff contention. However, with their loss to the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago, those chances are close to one percent. So, what becomes more important is the draft implications for the Bears. The biggest question going into the offseason is the quarterback. Justin Fields has shown flashes and signs of being the player of the future, but has also been struggling in the pocket at times and sometimes is not the best with decision-making. To Fields’ credit, since returning from his dislocated thumb, some of these issues have gotten better.

But with Chicago needing to make a decision about his fifth-year option, those improvements may not be enough.

“You have to focus on the here and now today and improve every single day. When you do that, you’re going to get better, you’re going to improve, and you’re going to stay locked in on our job, and he does that at a great rate,” Eberflus said. “He does it every single week, and I commend him for that. You got to be strong to do that, certainly during times of adversity, and he stands on solid ground.”

One thing that any quarterback needs is a good offensive line. That is something Chicago has struggled with for some time. But with rookie Darnell Wright doing a solid job at right tackle and Jenkins making improvements since getting moved to guard, things have gotten better with Fields only getting sacked once last game, the first time that has occurred all season.

“We love where Teven has developed to … Teven’s done a great job of maturing that way, being there all the way through training camp, working through minor injuries. Obviously, he got injured when we were in Indianapolis doing a drill,” Eberflus said. “So, that was a freak deal and you have to look at those injuries if they are consistent or are they a freak type of deal, and that’s what we feel with him. He’s done a really good job being consistent, being in the building, being a pro, and he’s been dominant when he’s in there, and the numbers say that.”

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