May 27, 2022

3 things we heard at Chicago Bears voluntary minicamp, including Matt Eberflus tweaking the offensive line – Young Gazzate

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After a two-week strength and conditioning program, the Chicago Bears on Tuesday took to the practice field at Halas Hall for the first time under new coach Matt Eberflus.

Eberflus said he saw “great execution” as the team opened the three-day voluntary minicamp, which the NFL allows for teams with new coaches. Eberflus kept his offense and defense separate as the units got their plays and calls down, but he said they will do some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work Wednesday.

“A lot of times you’ll see other things that don’t show (great execution), like snaps that are dropped, guys jumping offsides, defensively guys missing their assignments,” he said. “I saw really good execution today. That’s a tribute to them paying attention to what we’re trying to do, offense, defense and kicking.”

Along with Justin Fields’ work with Eberflus and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, here are three things we learned Tuesday.

1. Eberflus stressed there was ‘no concern’ when asked about the absence of safety Eddie Jackson and others.

Jackson was among the most notable absences from a roster of fewer than 70 players among current Bears and tryout players combined.

For the defense, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, edge rushers Robert Quinn and Al-Quadin Muhammad and defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. also weren’t spotted practicing.

Most of the offense was on the field, but quarterback Nick Foles was not.

Eberflus was asked about Jackson considering he is one of the most notable returnees on the defense and Eberflus talked about giving him a “fresh slate” after underwhelming production in recent seasons. Eberflus stressed that the camp is voluntary.

“I know you might have questions about this player, that player or … guys who were in and out — that’s part of this time of the year,” Eberflus said. “Guys have things that go on personally. They’re working on a part of their body. Maybe they had an injury from the last season and maybe they’re somewhere working on that.

“Everybody’s got their own story, and that’s not a big issue. Everybody’s done a good job of communicating with us, and they’ll be here when they’re here, and when they’re here, they’ll get good work.”

2. Teven Jenkins lined up at right tackle as the Bears experiment with their offensive line.

Jenkins, whom former Bears general manager Ryan Pace drafted in the second round last year to play left tackle, was on the right side Tuesday while fellow second-year lineman Larry Borom played left tackle.

Eberflus said the Bears are going to tinker with a lot of positions and will look at practices, game film and history as they determine where players best fit.

“We’re looking at a lot of things,” he said. “So you might see guys at a lot of different spots. A guy could be playing X receiver or Z receiver or U tight end or Y tight end, left defensive end, right defensive end. … (W)e’re just trying to figure out what guys do and what they do best. So you could see those guys flip during OTAs.”

The Bears also have questions at right guard after James Daniels departed in free agency, and Sam Mustipher got some work at the position Tuesday. Cody Whitehair returns at left guard, and newcomer Lucas Patrick is slated to start at center.

3. Trevis Gipson said it hurt to see Khalil Mack go to the Los Angeles Chargers in a trade.

Gipson spoke several times last year about his appreciation for learning behind Mack and Quinn in his second NFL season.

So he naturally was bummed — and a little shocked — to learn of the Mack trade while at a friend’s house last month.

“It sort of bothered me a little bit because I stole a lot of information from (Mack),” Gipson said. “Well, I hate to use the word ‘steal.’ But, yeah, I learned a lot from Khalil, man. He paved the way with a lot of things and showed me right from wrong. How to do certain techniques, how to carry myself as a vet in this league.”

Gipson said he shot a text to Mack, who responded by telling him to “just keep working.”

Gipson had seven sacks, five forced fumbles and two passes defended in 16 games and nine starts last season and said he is “overly excited” to get to work.

He transitioned from a 4-3 defensive end in college at Tulsa to a 3-4 outside linebacker his first two years in Chicago, but he will be moving back to a 4-3 base. He said he doesn’t think the learning curve with Eberflus’ defense will be too challenging.

“They want us to play fast, physical, have fun,” Gipson said. “They took a lot of (the) thinking load off of our plate, which I’m sure every player would want. I’m excited to play fast.”

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