Bears Rookie Velus Jones Called Out Over Fumbling Issues

Velus Jones Fumbles

Getty Velus Jones Jr. caught some criticism for his fumble against the Eagles in Week 16.

The Chicago Bears are making it abundantly clear to rookie Velus Jones Jr. that his ball security has got to improve if he wants a future with the team.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was not pleased with his third-round rookie wide receiver following his third fumble of the season in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia. Jones coughed the ball up on a sweep play in the third quarter while Chicago was attempting to close a three-point deficit, killing the first-down momentum of the previous play.

“Yeah, I don’t like that,” Eberflus said after the game. “I don’t like it. I don’t like when guys lose the football. It’s not good. Guys have to do a better job securing the ball. Again, I’ll have to look at the tape, but when you’re in traffic you have to have five points of pressure against the ball and put your clasp hand over your over hand.”

Jones has been fumbling away his chance to make an impression with the Bears all throughout his rookie season. After missing three games to start the season, Jones entered the lineup as a return specialist and muffed two key punts in his first three performances, putting him in the dog house for the next several weeks. Injuries forced the Bears to start feeding Jones more reps in Week 11, but his latest mistake — this time as a gadget player for the offense — continues a troubling pattern for him.

Jones, Bears Need to Focus on Better Ball Security

Part of the allure of Jones coming out of Tennessee was the aggression and fearlessness he showed as a ball carrier. While he was understood to need some work on his route-running as a receiver, it was believed his speed (4.31 seconds in the 40) and special-teams versatility would be enough to earn him an NFL roster spot.

Unfortunately, it is hard to be trusted with anything when you can’t secure the football.

“I’m an aggressive runner, so I’m going to fight for extra yards instead of running out of bounds,” Jones said in the postgame, via Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports. “I had one blocker out there, I think it was three [defenders]. I tried to like split ‘em, but I’ve gotta put two hands on the ball. I think someone had ripped it out from the back. So, yeah, just focus on that ball security. The ball is everything.”

Despite his postgame criticism, though, Eberflus made it clear there will still be plenty of encouragement for Jones from the Bears’ coaching staff moving forward.

“I would just say like anybody that goes through adversity, just be encouraging,” Eberflus told reporters during Monday’s press conference. “Encourage them. Teach. Fundamentally teach what we need to do during that moment with the clasp hand and reaching five points of pressure. That’s really it. Drill it and drill it and drill it.”

How Will Bears Proceed With Jones’ Development?

With Chase Claypool and N’Keal Harry back at practice, the Bears will have options other than Jones at receiver down the stretch, but the bigger problem is the level of investment the Bears have in Jones. He was the only wide receiver that Ryan Poles selected in his first draft as general manager, and many believed the Bears were reaching when they took the now-25-year-old in the third round.

So far, that seems to be a fair assessment, even when taking into account how bad the Bears have been as a passing offense in 2022. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones has taken 45 offensive snaps in which he has run a receiving route, but he has only been targetted six times with a pass, catching four of them for 27 yards. He has also taken seven carries for 49 yards, but 33 of those yards came in one game against Dallas — and Jones also dropped a would-be touchdown in that game that diminished the good.

Even if Jones is benched for the remainder of the 2022 season, though, it seems highly unlikely the Bears will move on from him in the near future. The Bears are expected to enhance their receiver room during the 2023 offense with more than $120 million in projected cap space and extra assets for the upcoming draft, but the third-round pick they sunk into Jones is difficult to recoup at this point. If Chicago believes there is even a small amount of potential still in Jones, it is worth exploring at a rookie-contract price — at least for one more season.

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