Growing pains: Rookies’ mistakes irk Matt Eberflus

Velus Jones, who muffed two punts earlier this year, lost a fumble on a sweep vs. the Eagles. “I don’t like it when guys lose the football,” Eberflus said. Safety Jaquan Brisker blitzed the wrong gap and Jalen Hurts made the Bears pay with a 22-yard touchdown run.

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Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates with center Jason Kelce (62) after Hurts’ 22-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead in the second quarter Sunday at Soldier Field.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates with center Jason Kelce (62) after Hurts’ 22-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead in the second quarter Sunday at Soldier Field.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Bears wide receiver Velus Jones isn’t the kind of rookie who’s going to let one mistake bother him.

Or two.

Or three.

Jones’ problem is that his mistakes are adding up. After muffed punts against the Giants and Commanders cost him his return job, Jones committed an even more egregious error in the eyes of coach Matt Eberflus when he fumbled on a sweep in the Bears’ 25-20 loss to the Eagles on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The Bears were trailing 17-13 and had a first down at the Eagles’ 42 with 5:52 left in the third quarter when Jones took a handoff from Justin Fields and sped around left end. But as he turned the corner after gaining two yards, Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox dislodged the ball while making the tackle, and linebacker Haason Reddick recovered at the Eagles’ 43.

The defense bailed out Jones when it stopped the Eagles on downs at the Bears’ 33 after five plays. But that’s not likely to cut Jones any slack with Eberflus.

“I don’t like that; I don’t like it,” Eberflus said. “I don’t like it when guys lose the football. It’s not good. Guys have to do a better job securing the ball.

“I’ll look at the tape. But when you’re in traffic, you have to have five points of pressure on the ball. That’s an important piece to it. We’ll look and see where it is.”

Jones, a third-round draft pick, has been lauded by his coaches for being headstrong through difficult times and not playing scared despite his mistakes. But perhaps he needs to play with a little more caution because staying aggressive isn’t fixing the problem.

“I’m an aggressive runner, so I’m always trying to fight for extra yards,” Jones said. “I tried to split two defenders, but [I] just gotta put two hands on the ball. I’m fighting for extra yards, and I think someone got it out from behind me. So I know what to correct. I just gotta keep two hands on the ball.”

It remains to be seen how many more chances Jones gets.

“He’s got to stay encouraged,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘He’s got to keep working and doing the right things. I know he can do it right. We’ll coach him to do it that way.”

With five rookies starting, Eberflus knows he’ll have to live with growing pains. But he’s a little less tolerant of them this late in the season. Even safety Jaquan Brisker, the best rookie of them all, got caught when he blitzed the wrong gap next to center Jason Kelce on a third-and-eight play from the Bears’ 22 late in the second quarter. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scooted through the other “A” gap with a clear path to a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead with 43 seconds left in the first half.

“We had two guys in the same gap,” Eberflus said. “The safety is supposed to be in the other gap. We should have had that dead to rights. That’s unfortunate that it happened.”

Brisker said the error was more because of rust from missing two games with a concussion than a rookie mistake.

“Just a missed assignment from me,” Brisker said. “Just trying to make a play for the team. I knew we were in “zero,” but I told [safety DeAndre Houston-Carson] to take the tight end, [and] I didn’t locate the tight end. Wherever the tight end is, I’ve got to go the opposite of that.”

But, unlike Jones’, Brisker’s error was a blip, not a red flag.

“Once [Hurts] scored, I figured I went in the wrong gap . . . [and] I moved on,” Brisker said. “I really don’t let stuff like that dictate my performance going on. I know who I am.”

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