Plan B: Bears DT Justin Jones thriving, feeling ‘at home’ in scheme

After Akiem Hicks’ departure and problems that nixed signing premier free agent Larry Ogunjobi, Jones is fitting in nicely.

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New Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones at a recent practice.

New Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones at a recent practice.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

New Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones might not be able to replace Akiem Hicks and wasn’t even the team’s first choice in free agency, but he’s off to a good start in establishing himself as a pillar of their defense.

Jones can’t do too much because these practices are supposed to be — ahem — non-contact, but there are early indications that he’ll be an ideal fit. Coach Matt Eberflus liked what he saw from Jones last season with the Chargers, and Jones can already tell this defense suits him.

“Just flying around, making tackles and making plays and being disruptive is my game,” Jones said after practice Wednesday. “I feel like I fit in; I feel like I’m at home in this scheme.”

Jones, 25, is at a pivotal point of his career. The Chargers drafted him in the third round in 2018, and he was a full-time starter the last three seasons. He signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Bears and will carry the fifth-largest salary-cap hit on the team this season.

That means Jones has a lot on the line. If he excels and endears himself to Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams, he could be a fixture of the Bears’ future. Eberflus was optimistic about that based on what he’s seen.

“I love the athletic ability, I love the man, I love his attitude — he’s working super hard,” Eberflus said. “The evaluation will continue to go all the way through training camp. When we put the pads on, then we get our true evaluation. But where he is right now, we are extremely excited about that.”

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