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Bears' waiver pickups are 'pieces that can help us'

Bears coach Matt Eberflus
Bears coach Matt Eberflus

Coach Matt Eberflus described the six players the Bears claimed off waivers from other NFL teams Wednesday as "pieces that we feel that can help us, and that's why we claimed them."

The group consists of cornerback Josh Blackwell (Eagles), defensive end Kingsley Jonathan (Bills), defensive tackle Armon Watts (Vikings), guard/tackle Alex Leatherwood (Raiders), linebacker Sterling Weatherford (Colts) and tight end Trevon Wesco (Jets).

"You can get some really good players off of there," Eberflus said. "We have done that in the past. We've had starters, Pro Bowl players come off that claim and we're excited about the guys we have."

One waiver pickup who blossomed into a top player during Eberflus' recent tenure as Colts defensive coordinator was safety Kenny Moore. Claimed by Indianapolis off waivers from the Patriots in 2017, Moore became a full-time starter in Eberflus' first season in 2018 and was voted to his first Pro Bowl last year after recording 102 tackles, four interceptions and 13 pass breakups.

"He developed and really worked hard into the player that he is today," Eberflus said.

The Bears coach hopes Wednesday's waiver pickups will experience similar success in Chicago.

"They're our kind of guys, so we're looking forward to getting those guys in here," Eberflus said. "Really, it's up to the coach at that position to get those guys ready in terms of our style and how we do things. Certainly, they're going to teach them the fundamentals, their position, teach them what to do, how to do it. But the most important part is our style, how we practice and how we go about our business. And that'll be my job and the position coaches' job to get those guys up to speed, because it will be the hardest thing that they ever do once they come into our club. So we've got to make sure that we're squared away with how we do stuff."

The most recognizable name of the six new additions is Leatherwood. Selected by the Raiders with the 17th overall pick in the first round of last year's draft, the Alabama product started all 17 games as a rookie.

"One of the things when you look at him that stands out would be, No. 1, his run blocking," Eberflus said. "His run blocking is really good. He's got good balance when it comes to that. He stays on guys. That's what we like about him the most right now. He's got to develop his game. He's a young player and we've got some really good coaches to help him. Chris Morgan is one of the best line coaches in the NFL. We're excited to have those guys paired up together."

Leatherwood struggled at right tackle early last season and was moved to right guard in Week 5. Eberflus declined to reveal where he would line up with the Bears.

"We're not going to disclose that right now; still working with the coaches on that," Eberflus said. "But it's a clean slate and a fresh start for him. We're excited to have him and we'll see where he goes from here."

Although Leatherwood didn't perform up to expectations with the Raiders, the Bears are hopeful that Morgan can bring the best out of the 6-5, 313-pounder.

"Keep coaching him. Keep teaching him. Keep believing in him. And that's what we're here to do," Eberflus said. "We're here to encourage the guys along the way. There's a lot of adversity in football. We're here to challenge them. That's what C-Mo does. He does that. His meetings are awesome. They're open-forum meetings. Veterans helping younger players. He's helping younger guys. And that's why you see the development in there as we've seen. All the way across the board. And we're going to continue to see that because he's a good teacher."

Watts, meanwhile, is an experienced fourth-year pro. Selected by the Vikings in the sixth round of the 2019 draft out of Arkansas, he appeared in 40 games with 10 starts the past three seasons, compiling 90 tackles, 7.0 sacks and three tackles-for-loss. Last year Watts played in all 17 games with nine starts, establishing career highs with 46 tackles, 5.0 sacks and three tackles-for-loss.

"He's an athlete that stays on his feet," Eberflus said. "He's got really good rush ability, which is what we're looking for in there, but he's also got anchor to stay in there and anchor the point. He's a really good addition and we're excited to get him and we're excited to work with him and his pass rush, even to get better and learn our style. He's played in similar styles to ours, so it won't be a big conversion for him."

Weatherford entered the NFL with Indianapolis this year as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio), where he teamed with Bears rookie defensive end Dominique Robinson, a fifth-round pick. Weatherford played safety in college but was switched to linebacker by the Colts.

"Sterling's going to be a good addition," Eberflus said. "He's the kind of guy we're looking for. He's got speed. He's got size. He's got length. And he's going to be competing in the linebacker room. So we're excited to get him, for sure."