The Bears can’t possibly keep rookie wide receiver Velus Jones on the bench, but that’s where he has been stuck the last two games.
Jones was a third-round pick at a position of great need, drafted with high expectations that he’d be a playmaker. Instead, he was mostly playing as a return specialist before he lost that job for fumbling punts against the Giants and Commanders.
Teams don’t draft players in the third round to play special teams. The Bears need him to make an impact offensively.
“Once he builds consistency, that’ll build some trust,” receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. “Once we have trust, he’ll play more.”
That makes it sound like a problem with knowing the playbook.
“It’s everything,” Tolbert said. “It’s all-encompassing. He’s doing a really good job of that at this point in time, so hopefully he’ll get a chance to see some snaps this weekend.”
Jones has played 43 snaps on offense and has three catches for 24 yards and a touchdown, plus three carries for 41 yards. He has remained upbeat through a turbulent season and is determined to fight his way back onto the game-day roster.
“Just take a lesson from it and let it motivate you,” he said of his benching.
Special-teams coordinator Richard Hightower said Jones’ hamstring injury in training camp cost him important practice time and preseason game reps. He played in just one of the three preseason games and was out the first three regular-season games.
Had Jones been able to work through these issues in meaningless preseason games, perhaps he would have been better prepared for the season.
“If it happens in the regular season when the game’s on the line, then it matters more,” Hightower said. “So that’s unfortunate for him, but that’s what you saw play out. As a pro, he needs to make it happen in the regular season. . . . When, if, he ever gets a chance again, we’ll see what happens.”
Prized wide receiver Chase Claypool has had a quiet first two games since the Bears traded a second-round pick to the Steelers for him. His snap count went from 26 in his debut against the Dolphins to just 19 against the Lions, and he has just three catches for 21 yards.
As he goes into his third game Sunday against the Falcons, the Bears appear to be ready to expand his role.
“We have an even bigger package this week than we’ve had for him in the previous [games],” Tolbert said. “We’ve always had a lot of plays in for him, but it’s just a matter of how the game’s going [and] what plays are called. But there’s a big package for him in our game plan. Hopefully we get some of it this week and you will see.”
Key players return
The Bears are dealing with a lengthy injury report this week, but things got a little better Thursday with tight end Cole Kmet (hip), running back David Montgomery (personal issue) and cornerback Kindle Vildor (ankle) returning to practice. Kmet and Vildor were limited.