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5 things we learned from Bears coordinators

Bears receiver Velus Jones Jr.
Bears receiver Velus Jones Jr.

Bears coordinators Luke Getsy (offense), Alan Williams (defense) and Richard Hightower (special teams) spoke to the media Thursday in advance of Sunday's game against the Vikings. Here are five things we learned from their sessions:

(1) Hightower hasn't lost any confidence in Velus Jones Jr. despite his mistake last Sunday.

With 2:13 remaining in last Sunday's game against the Giants, the Bears trailed 20-12. The offense was preparing for a last chance to tie the game after the defense forced a three-and-out. The Giants punted from their own 7, but Jones muffed the punt and New York recovered the ball.

While the play all but sealed the game for the Giants, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower said it hasn't changed his confidence in Jones. Looking at the rookie's performance as a whole, Hightower was pleased with the receiver's NFL debut.

"I haven't lost any confidence in Velus," Hightower said. "I'm glad no one ever gave up on me the first mistake I made. That's how guys get better. You've got to give him chances, you've got to give him opportunities, and he's a special player. Nobody feels worse about that play than Velus does, so he's right back out there. He's ready to go."

Hightower's coaching points to Jones on that punt were to beat the ball to the spot, get centered with thumbs up and pinkies and elbows together to brace the ball. Hightower said attempting to catch the ball rather than letting it bounce was the right move.

The coaches have expressed continued trust in Jones and the rookie has remained confident in his abilities as well. Hightower said Jones has "got that look in his eyes this week" and is eager to get back on the field.

"I think when, we are talking about V12, Velus, he is so confident, super confident," Hightower said. "So that, I mean he was already talking about the next opportunity that he was going to get after that happened. Obviously, he didn't feel great about that. He's a confident person and we have all the confidence in the world in him. I can't wait to see him return it again."

(2) Getsy is still in the middle of figuring out where Lucas Patrick will play Sunday.

After veteran guard Cody Whitehair left last Sunday's game with a knee injury, Patrick filled in at left guard while Teven Jenkins remained at right guard. With Patrick having experience at both guard positions as well as center, Getsy is unsure what the starting offensive line will look like in Minnesota.

"Yesterday he did a little bit of everything, so we're gonna try to put what we feel in by the end of the week. We'll evaluate it again today and then make that decision," Getsy said.

Patrick, who played six season with the Packers, played both guard positions – with three starts at each spot between 2017 and 2018 – early in his career. The veteran first played center in 2019 when All-Pro Corey Linsley was out with an injury. Then in 2020, Patrick started four games at left guard and 11 games at right guard.

He continued to rotate through positions in 2021, starting one game at left guard, one game at right guard and 11 games at center.

"You're lucky you have a guy that has that kind of experience," Getsy said. "I mean, he's been thrown in those situations before, but it's still not an easy task. I think he's taken zero snaps at left guard since he's been here, and for him to go out there and be able to finish that game the way he did, we're lucky we have Lucas."

With Whitehair being placed on injured reserve Wednesday, the unit will be without him until at least Nov. 6 when the Bears host the Dolphins.

(3) Williams knows his unit will have their hands full while defending both Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook.

"We have to worry about two, and not to diminish the other guys on the team, but those are two dynamic players," Williams said. "I think the running back is dynamic and Jefferson is dynamic. So you have both. And so that's really what creates the problem. They can beat you in two ways. They can beat you on the ground, they can beat you up in the air. So you have to pick and choose how you call it, what you do and where you put guys and what you focus on. This week the focus is on both, not just one."

Just one week after facing the NFL's top running back in Saquon Barkley, the Bears defense will be challenged with stopping another unique runner. Cook sits in the top 15 among the league in rushing yards with 279 and carries with 63 heading into Week 5.

As far as Jefferson, he ranks No. 5 in the NFL with 393 receiving yards. His 28 receptions also rank fifth. Jefferson's playmaking ability goes beyond the initial completion as he ranks No. 7 with 158 yards after the catch.

With cornerback Jaylon Johnson still out of practice with a quad injury, the Bears will likely have a young group covering Jefferson, including rookie cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Jaylon Jones and rookie safety Jaquan Brisker. Williams' advice to the young players is to stay true to their technique and fundamentals.

"No. 1 thing would be, in a nutshell, make sure your technique can stand the test of time," Williams said. "That's to say that hey, whatever your technique is, whether it's a dynamic [guy], whether it's a fast guy, not so fast guy, tall guy, small guy, whatever that is, you want to make sure your technique, whatever it is, can stand the test of time so that you're not so focused on what they do. We do look at that, we do look at where their catches come from, where they're lined up, how they run their routes, when they get their targets. So for a young guy, the No. 1 thing is, your technique will get you to where you're supposed to be. Your eyes will take you where you're supposed to be. You don't need to do anything different than what you're doing."

(4) Hightower was impressed with rookie cornerback Josh Blackwell's play on special teams last Sunday.

The Bears got their first takeaway of the game last Sunday when Blackwell forced and recovered a fumble on punt coverage. Blackwell tackled Giants returner Richie James, knocking the ball loose, then found the ball among several other players.

"[Blackwell] was in a vise," Hightower said. "What we call a vise is two guys on one blocking him. He was releasing there, and he did a good job using his speed and using his hands. He got the guys to overplay and came underneath it, and he hit the ballcarrier with really good physicality and dislodged the ball and was able to recover it. But him just using his speed there and using the techniques that we teach him in practice, and [assistant special teams] coach [Carlos] Polk teaches him and we all try to teach him. He did a good job carrying a drill to the field, and that's what we want to see with all our players is them taking the drills to the field and just keep progressing. That's what we're looking for."

Hightower credits the Bears' player personnel staff for finding Blackwell through the waiver wire. Blackwell originally signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie but was released by Philadelphia during final roster cuts. The Bears then signed the Duke product on Aug. 31.

"The personnel people did a phenomenal job," Hightower said. "They get the credit first because we don't have the time to scout players when we're doing scheme, we're doing stuff like that. So they recognize the talent and then we just talk together, and then it's pretty evident to see that some tools were there. And then a credit to Josh. He just took the coaching that he's getting, along with the stuff that he already knew with his God-given ability, and he's been making some plays. So we just want that to continue."

(5) Getsy likes the early success of the offense in recent games, but wants to see more execution through all four quarters.

In the last three games, the Bears have scored on each of their first drives. Against Green Bay, the Bears took an early 7-3 lead with Justin Fields' 3-yard rushing touchdown. In games against the Texans and Giants, the Bears took 3-0 leads with field goals.

While the offensive game plan has worked early on, Getsy is still searching for that success for the entire 60 minutes.

"That's this league, right? I can't tell you how many games that I've watched this year that it's like 7-3 after the first two drives and then no one scores until the fourth quarter," Getsy said. "These guys are really good, right? And they make it really hard. A lot of defenses that you play now, [the Vikings are] one of them, they create that shell defense. You're going to see DBs 20 yards deep and not letting you get behind them. That's the style of defense. There's a lot of bend-don't-break defenses going on, and then like you guys pointed out, we've got to be more effective in the red zone, so instead of four field goals, we're getting three touchdowns and one field goal. And then now we're all talking in a positive light about what's going on. That's what we've got to get better [at] situationally."

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