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Offensive line making strides in passing game | Quick Hits


Through 10 weeks of the season, the Bears remain the top rushing team in the NFL, ahead of the No. 2 Ravens by a 504-yard margin. While the Bears' average of over 201.7 rushing yards per contest is bolstered by the dual-threat ability of quarterback Justin Fields, the offensive line has also been integral to the run game.

But in the last few weeks, it's been the line's growth in pass protection that stands out to Fields.

"The guys have been working hard," Fields said. "C-Mo (offensive line coach Chris Morgan) has them working. They have been great with [passing] off the games the defensive line tries to run. Just like I said, we all on offense are trying to improve each and every day. I think those guys have. Those guys are going to keep improving.

"I'm excited for those guys, I'm excited for this week and what they are going to show. Excited for the rest of the year."

While injuries throughout the season have created a lot of movement and different combinations on the offensive line, the production level has remained steady.

One of the more recent additions to the starting lineup is left tackle Riley Reiff. The veteran made his first start for the Bears against Oct. 30 Dallas while Larry Borom was out with a concussion. While Borom returned to practice the next week before the Dolphins game, Reiff has kept the starting role.

"First of all, Larry's done a great job," Eberflus said. "He's been awesome, and he's been a pro and he's working his tail off in there. But Riley's done well. You know, Riley's done well in there since he's had that spot. He's playing with a good demeanor. He's functioned well. He's graded out well. So, we're just going that way at this point. But, again, it's still a competition. We'll see how it goes, and you know how it goes with the NFL – some guys go down, all of a sudden Larry's back in. So you never know what can happen."

Eberflus is also excited about the development of Alex Leatherwood, who spent nearly four weeks on the reserve/non-football illness list. Leatherwood returned to practice on Oct. 12 then moved to the active roster Oct. 28.

Leatherwood didn't join the Bears until Aug. 31 when they claimed him off waivers from the Raiders. Two weeks later, he was sidelined with an illness, giving him minimal time to gel with the offense. Now after a couple weeks of consistent practice, Eberflus likes where the former first-round draft pick is headed.

"It was unfortunate," Eberflus said. "In fact I was just talking to C-Mo yesterday about that, because he missed all that time. In practice we really like where he is. He's really starting to feel his way into that role, playing inside or outside, whatever that is, he's understanding the offense. And you can really start to see his confidence start to build. The guys are getting comfortable. He's getting comfortable with the guys. And he's getting a lot of help from all the group, the whole group. So he's starting to take some big steps."

Injury Update: The Bears listed seven players on the injury report Wednesday. Running back David Montgomery (personal), tight end Cole Kmet (thigh), guard Teven Jenkins (hip), cornerback Kindle Vildor (ankle) and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (knee) did not participate. Cornerback Kyler Gordon (knee) and safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) practiced in a limited capacity.

Integrating Claypool: After playing 26 snaps in his Bears debut, with the ball thrown his way six times against Miami, receiver Chase Claypool was on the field for just 19 plays and was targeted only twice.

"I just think that all of our skill we try to get involved," Eberflus said. "It's not going to work out every single week where everybody gets involved and everybody gets the touches that they need or want to have, but we're certainly trying to do that for sure. We're trying to get Claypool the touches and highlight his athletic skill, like with all of our players."

The Bears are eager to see Claypool's skillset fit into the offense, but it's only been two weeks since the third-year receiver arrived in Chicago. Claypool said while he's at a "nine out of ten" in terms of learning the offense, he's still picking up important details with the playbook and the intricacies of the route tree.

While Claypool is excited about his role in the offense, he also wants to be patient about getting involved and will "let time do its thing."

"I think especially with our offense, it's not like a big rush to try and get me on the field," Claypool said, "because our run game is so good, and we have so many different personnels that they don't have to try to like throw me into the fire, I would say, for the offense to be productive. The offense can be productive because the run game is so good. I just think, as I move along, we'll get the pass game [going] more and even the run game because I love blocking too."

Pringle standing out: Between a quad injury during training camp and a Week 3 calf injury that landed him on injured reserve, receiver Byron Pringle hasn't been able to produce much for the Bears since joining the team in the offseason.

Pringle was activated from IR Saturday and immediately earned a role in Sunday's game against the Lions while fellow receivers N'Keal Harry and Velus Jones Jr. were healthy scratches. Eberflus said the decision to play Pringle over Harry was the result of "us looking to see what's best for us that time to win the game," including his ability to block linebackers and safeties in the run game.

"I would just say [Pringle is] a physical guy who can really block the point in the run game," Eberflus said. "I think he's a big body that's open in terms of being able to big-body guys and be strong at the catch point. A good route-runner. That's what we see."

While Jones, the Bears' third round draft pick, played in Weeks 4-8, he's been inactive for the last two games. Eberflus said when it comes to making final decisions on the active roster for gameday, special teams is a big factor, which is an area where Jones struggled early in the season with a pair of muffed punts.

"A lot of times the determining factor of those last decisions that you make are special teams," Eberflus said. "So when you look at that, is going to help us in cover teams? Is he going to help us returning? Is he going to help us in other ways on special teams? If he is the fifth or other receiver that we have, is he going to be able to help us with certain things, like for Velus, gadget plays, end arounds and blocking on the perimeter. We always look at that and we'll make our decisions as we go this week and we'll see what happens."

The Bears practiced among the flurries at Halas Hall Wednesday afternoon as they get ready for Sunday's matchup with the Falcons in Atlanta.

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