Bears Coach Matt Eberflus Explains ‘Surprise’ Treatment of Top Rookie

Velus Jones

Getty Velus Jones Jr. was a healthy scratch for the Chicago Bears Week 9.

When the inactives list for the Chicago Bears was announced prior to their Week 9 contest against the Miami Dolphins, there was one notable addition: rookie wide receiver and return specialist Velus Jones Jr.

Jones, who was the lone wide receiver selected by the Bears in the 2022 draft, missed the first three weeks of the season due to a hamstring injury, but he had appeared in the following five games, and was used primarily on special teams. The hope was for Jones to be the team’s top returner of punts and/or kickoffs while also becoming a potential weapon who could help quarterback Justin Fields on offense.

Neither has happened yet, unfortunately.

Jones fumbled two key punt returns: one Week 4 against the New York Giants and another Week 6 against the Washington Commanders. He also had a big drop against the Cowboys. Jones was eventually replaced as a returner by receiver Dante Pettis, and Bears head coach Matt Eberflus confirmed after Chicago’s 35-33 loss to the Dolphins that the team chose Pettis over Jones.

Matt Eberflus on Velus Jones Being Healthy Scratch: Going With Pettis ‘Right Thing to Do’

Jones was one of the team’s top three selections in the draft this year, and even though he had been struggling on special teams, he could still be used as a gadget player on offense. The Bears’ addition of wideout Chase Claypool changed things a bit, however, leaving Chicago’s wide receivers room a tad more crowded.

Eberflus was asked why the team elected to keep one of its top three draft picks on the bench, and his answer was telling.

“It was about special teams,” Eberflus replied. “We looked at our roster, our cover teams and we thought we needed to have other guys up for our cover teams. With Dante Pettis doing a good job with the punt returns, we thought this week that that was the right thing for us to do, and also based on the receiver position, we thought it was the best thing to do.”

Five wideouts saw the field in Chicago’s Week 9 loss to the Dolphins: top receiver Darnell Mooney, N’Keal Harry, Equanimeous St. Brown, Pettis and Claypool. St. Brown played 70% of the team’s snaps and had a huge drop on the Bears’ final play on offense in the fourth quarter, while Pettis was on the field 36% of the time. Surely some of his snaps could’ve gone to Jones?

Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports called Jones being a healthy scratch from the lineup “a surprise.” If the healthy scratches continue, though, it won’t bode well for Jones’ future in Chicago.


What Bears Do With Velus Jones for Next Several Games Will Be Telling

While Jones had two costly fumbles in the return game and had also neglected to field a few others, Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower said on November 3 that he was happy about the decisions Jones has been making.

“I think Velus made excellent decisions last week,” Hightower said, referencing Chicago’s 49-29 loss to the Cowboys. “There are some times when you can bring those balls out and you’re in a favorable position. That was not a favorable position for us to bring the ball out, and we kind of knew that going into the game. They had like 34 kickoffs and like 33 touchbacks. They only had like one ball returned all year. It stayed true, and the one we could bring, we brought and that was that in the game. But I thought he made great decisions.”

Jones has three catches for 24 yards and a touchdown along with three carries for 41 yards (that’s 13.7 yards per rush) in his five games this season. He needs to learn how to hang onto the ball better, but he showed flashes when incorporated on offense. We’ll see how the team uses him from here on out, as it will be very telling.

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