Claypool came under scrutiny once again during Sunday’s 38-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, this time for his poor blocking effort on the perimeter to impeded the success of the Bears offense on more than one occasion. He also made no impact as a receiver, dropping one of his two targets in the passing game and finishing with zero catches.
The effort was bad enough to warrant a meeting with head coach Matt Eberflus to discuss what went wrong against the Packers. And, as Eberflus explained during his September 13 press conference, the door remains open for Claypool to potentially be ruled inactive against the Buccaneers if they believe they have a better blocking option.
“We’re looking at all possibilities,” Eberflus told reporters Wednesday when asked if Claypool could be ruled inactive in Week 2. “I’m not going to talk about who is going to be up or down for the game right now, but we’re looking at all things to make our things better, who is going to be up and who is going to be down in terms of our active roster.”
Eberflus Shies Away From Effort Criticisms of Claypool
There was no shortage of ugly blocking tape from Claypool against the Packers. In the second quarter, Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon easily pushed him backward into Darnell Mooney on a screen pass and took down the latter for a loss of four yards. Six plays later in the third quarter, he completely whiffed trying to block Darnell Savage and allowed the Packers safety to proceed downhill to stop Khalil Herbert on a run.
“You guys all saw the plays, and again the perimeter blocking needed to improve with all of us,” Eberflus said. “And we’re going to work hard to get that done.”
Eberflus declined to specifically say whether it was a lack of ability or a lack of effort on Claypool’s part that resulted in such a poor performance, but he did acknowledge that bringing the right amount of intensity as a blocker is an important piece of the puzzle. He also reiterated that “everything comes down to technique” with perimeter blocking.
“When you’re blocking the perimeter like that, you have to have good technique,” Eberflus said. “He’s displayed good technique in practice on that and that’s why we had him in those positions, but perimeter blocking is all about technique. It’s all about your angles and your intensity for sure, it’s always about that. It doesn’t matter if you’re push-cracking on a linebacker or cracking down on somebody inside, that’s what it’s always about.”
Could Equanimeous St. Brown Take Claypool’s Spot?
It might seem ludicrous for the Bears to consider making Claypool — a receiver for whom they traded a second-round pick — a healthy scratch just one game into the new season, but that decision could come down to how confident they are in his ability to turn things around as a blocker in his second test against the Buccaneers in Week 2.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus had previously said that Claypool had been displaying “good technique in practice” as a blocker leading up to their season opener, which is one of the reasons why they felt comfortable trusting him with those responsibilities. After Claypool missed assignments and loafed around against the Packers, though, it is worth wondering if their confidence in him is wavering ahead of their trip to Tampa.
If the Bears are doubting Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown could be the logical choice to replace him on the game-day roster. St. Brown was one of two receivers Chicago left inactive in their season opener, but his strong track record as both a pass-blocker and a run-blocker makes him a strong candidate to be active against the Buccaneers.
According to Pro Football Focus, St. Brown was both the highest-graded (80.5) and most-active pass-blocker among the Bears’ receiving corps in 2022, functioning as a blocker on 2.6% of his offensive snaps and getting the job done with high efficiency. It was one of the key reasons why they elected to re-sign him for the 2023 season.
The Bears could always have both Claypool and St. Brown active in Week 2, but they currently have seven wide receivers on their 53-man roster and are unlikely to play six of them in any given week unless there are injury concerns motivating their decisions. D.J. Moore and Darnell Mooney are too valuable to take out and Tyler Scott and Trent Taylor both have returner roles on special teams. In other words, if they only want one more guy and need him to be a sturdy blocker, Claypool could be sitting on the bench.