Bears News: Matt Eberflus on Ngakoue’s season-ending injury, Fields’ improvement

Bears News: Matt Eberflus on Ngakoue’s season-ending injury, Fields’ improvement

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - The Bears will arguably face their biggest test of the season going against the Cleveland Browns and their No. 1 overall defense who is allowing a league-low of 56 completion percentage and only allow a rushing first down 19.3 percent of the time, also the lowest in the NFL this season. This will most likely become a game all about the defenses.

But, as head coach Matt Eberflus informed the media on Wednesday, Chicago will be without defensive end Yannick Ngakoue for the rest of the season.

“Yannick Ngakoue is going to IR. He broke his ankle. It’s season-ending,” Eberflus said. “So, he will not be back this season, will still be around the building and just want to compliment him on him being a true pro all the way through, really helped our young guys the entire year and just really want to credit him for that and really appreciate him being a great teammate.”

He went on to say that Ngakoue will need surgery on his ankle and that the game happened during one of the last two-minute drives on defense in their victory over Detroit. However, he could not pinpoint exactly where it happened as Ngakoue elected to play through the injury until the game ended.

Despite this big loss, it does create numerous opportunities for other players to step up such as rookies Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens as Ngakoue had been on the field for 72 percent of Chicago’s defensive plays this season. Going against the Browns, who are on their fourth starting quarterback of the season in veteran Joe Flacco, this will also be a test for the defensive line as a whole to see if they are able to get pressure on the veteran. In order for that to happen, that will most likely mean more of a presence from edge rusher Montez Sweat.

Still, that depends on the matchups.

“It’s really a great opportunity for some other guys and we’ve been rotating a lot of guys in there … and for me, it’s about finding that best combination. Really, it’s about the matchups,” Eberflus said. “When you look at the skill set of the offensive line we’re playing this week and how we can match up best against those guys and who that is going against who. So, that’s important.”

Things were rough earlier in the season with injuries so, despite Ngakoue’s injury, the Bears defense as a unit is in good shape compared to many other teams. For example, safety Eddie Jackson only played three games before the month of November and has now been in each of the last five games.

Having a veteran like Jackson as someone that communicates to the rest of the secondary, particularly with a young secondary, also helps with the cohesion of the defense.

“Eddie’s been good and what’s great about Eddie is the communication. He really does a nice job of settling everybody down in the back end. So, we do have some checks to our calls based on formations with certain calls and he’s done a really good job with that, making the adjustments,” Eberflus said. “I think he plays mostly in the deep part of the field. We don’t pressure him very much and those types of things. But, he’s made some good tackles in the run game when the ball’s squirted through there. To play good run defense, you have to be able to do that. So, I think he’s done well.”

The offense has been lagging behind a bit compared to the defense. While the defense has made great strides in the past three games, especially during this current win streak, the offense has struggled to stay consistent and put up points. Part of that could perhaps be attributed to missed calls by the officials. While a team never wants to rely on penalty yardage to sustain drives, there is a discrepancy between when a late hit occurs against quarterback Justin Fields compared to other quarterbacks, something Eberflus says he is doing everything he can to address.

“We feel that when he declares himself down, then he should be down and there should be no hit to the head or to the shoulder area,” Eberflus said. “But, that’s all you can do really and just visit before the game, visit during the game and just keep trusting it to him.”

Fields’ rushing ability may be something that contributes to this discrepancy as he runs more than most quarterbacks do as he is third in rushing this season among quarterbacks despite missing five games.

But, according to Eberflus, he is also starting to find that balance between using his rushing ability and staying in the pocket.

“The pocket presence is better. The rhythm and timing is better. Him being able to, once he starts to create before he exits, to look down the field. That’s been really good,” Eberflus said. “Taking care of the football in terms of interceptions, that’s been good as of late. Perfect game for a quarterback, like I said, is zero turnovers and that gives us a chance to win the game. So, just continuing to do that.”

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