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Bears coaches evaluate individual players, schemes

Bears coach Matt Eberflus
Bears coach Matt Eberflus

Having a few days off helped the Bears refresh and reset.

Back at Halas Hall Tuesday for the first time since last Thursday night's loss to the Commanders, players met with their position coaches to discuss how they performed over the first six games of the season.

"It's really about fundamentals and technique when you're talking to each player," said coach Matt Eberflus. "How can he improve on his run technique, his pass technique, his alignments? Is he getting his alignments down? His assignments, the keys, the techniques, all those things are important because that creates cleaner football and cleaner execution for our football team."

While the Bears evaluate players throughout the course of the season, having 11 days between games enabled them to conduct a more thorough review. 

"This is when you get a breath and you can take a chance to really dive into it a little bit deeper," Eberflus said. "Going into individual [drills] this week, we'll ramp up our individual back up a little bit longer so we can work on those fundamentals and techniques for each player, and that'll be very important for us."

Bears coaches spent the weekend not only assessing players but schemes. On offense, the focus moving forward is to improve a passing game that ranks last in the NFL, averaging just 122.8 yards per contest, while building on a rushing attack that is second in the league, averaging 170.8 yards. 

"Everybody knows we've been running the ball really well on offense," Eberflus said. "We need to improve our passing game. In situations, we need to improve. We know that, so we're going to work diligently to get that done." 

Defensively, the Bears rank 16th in the NFL in total yards, 29th against the run and third versus the pass, and are tied for 23rd with 11 sacks. 

"We hadn't stopped the run as well as we wanted to over the first six games, but we played some pretty good pass defense," Eberflus said. "We don't have the sack numbers we want to have. Part of that is a function of getting them in the right down and distances to stop the run. And we have to get better situationally there too, third down and red zone. 

"We know where we're strong and we know where we have to improve, and we're going to work hard to do that and put our minds together. So we'll see where that goes. It's a week-to-week basis in this league. Every week has got a set of challenges to it: the personnel on the other side, your personnel, how they match up to it, what you can take advantage of and how you can win the football game."

Many of the questions Eberflus answered Tuesday involved quarterback Justin Fields. Asked what the second-year pro can improve on, the coach said: "Just like we've been saying, and I think he's been improving on it, it's his footwork and timing, and we think he's doing a good job with that."

One metric that was tweeted by ESPN sports analytics writer Seth Walder detailed how only five of the 23 sacks Fields has taken this season occurred in fewer than 4.29 seconds, the median time NFL quarterbacks spend in the pocket. Walder concluded that Fields often holds onto the ball too long.

Asked about teaching quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quicker, Eberflus said: "You can make small, incremental improvements as you go. That's with anybody. You can learn to read your keys and see what the coverages are faster. You can identify that pre-snap, post-snap a little bit faster."

Eberflus declined to say whether he feels Fields holds onto the ball too long at times but acknowledged that "getting the ball out of your hands fast puts pressure on the defense," especially when beating a blitz.

"It's always something you have to work on: under center getting the ball out quick, from the shotgun getting the ball out quick," Eberflus said. "It's all about footwork and how we deliver the ball."

After an off day Wednesday, the Bears will practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday in preparation for Monday night's game against the Patriots in New England.