Matt Eberflus has avoiding being heavy-handed about the defense he will be rebuilding as head coach of the Bears. It’ll have his stamp on it, but he has all but handed over the day-to-day reins to defensive coordinator Alan Williams.
Eberflus turned to another former coach this week to help point that defense in the right direction and he couldn’t have picked a much better one — former Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was a guest at veteran mini-camp Tuesday and will speak to the team Wednesday.
Marinelli’s credentials as one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL over the last two decades are well-established — with the Buccaneers (1996-2005), the Bears (2009-12) and the Cowboys (2013-19). He and Eberflus overlapped as Cowboys position coaches from 2013-17. As was evident with the Bears, there might not be an NFL position coach whose players swear by him more than Marinelli’s players have had a Yoda-like reverence for him.
“I spent five years with him in Dallas and I cannot say enough good things about Rod Marinelli,” Eberflus said. “What he taught me with the player-coach relationship –to be able to show the player that you care through action. And to prepare the player to play his best on Sunday.
“And then you’re able to challenge them and push them past the point they can’t take themselves, and that’s what I learned from Rod. Everybody who talks about him just loves him to death. I know when he was [with the Bears] he pushed the guys past the point they couldn’t take themselves and that’s what I learned from him. He’s a diamond in the rough, Rod Marinelli.”
Hold that line
Rookie left tackle Braxton Jones remained with the first team in Tuesday’s practice, next to left guard Cody Whitehair, center Lucas Patrick, right guard Sam Mustipher and right tackle Larry Borom.
Teven Jenkins, the 2021 second-round draft pick expected to start at either tackle position, remained with the second team. But Eberflus said the offensive line in general remains a fluid situation.
“We’re going to finish camp with this alignment,” Eberflus said, “and then we’ll decided, ‘We like this alignment, that alignment or [we] don’t like either one — let’s go with a new one.”
Asked if Jenkins or Borom could move to right guard, Eberflus said, “All combinations are open. We’re just trying to find the best five.”
Guard Dakota Dozier left the field on a cart after suffering an injury late in practice at Tuesday’s mini camp. Per his offseason policy, Eberflus did not comment on the extent of the injury.
The Bears’ wide receiver room statistically is the least accomplished group in the NFL. But the leader of that group, third-year wideout Darnell Mooney, gave a ringing endorsement of rookie Velus Jones, the speedster from Tennessee who was drafted in the third round (71st overall).
“I love the room,” Mooney said. “There are a lot of guys that are going to bring some good things to the table. Velus, man –when he gets the ball, y’all are going to see. He can fly. He can be a playmaker for sure for us.”
Rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon, the Bears’ first-round draft pick, did not participate in Tuesday’s practice –though he was in attendance and working on an exercise bike. Eberflus did not appear concerned about the undisclosed injury.
“He’s doing great, “Eberflus said. “He’s doing awesome.”