Instead of asking odd-ball questions, the Chicago Bears found a different way to learn more about their prospects from the 2023 NFL combine. Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus said Chicago coaches are competing in darts and putt-putt with respective prospects.
“We were talking before we got here,” Poles told NFL Network, “and Flus was like, ‘What can we do to kind of loosen the guys up and see if they’re got a little competitive juice to them?’ So we decided on darts and putt-putt.”
How have the coaches fared against the prospects?
“There’s been some interesting outcomes,” Poles said.
“The coaches aren’t that great at it,” Eberflus added. “The players are way better than the coaches, that’s for sure.”
Along with darts and putt-putt with prospects, the Bears’ brass is also weighing their options as far as possibly trading the No. 1 overall pick.
“We’re going to weigh all options,” Poles said. “The beautiful thing about the combine is that we get to sit down and pair the film and the evaluations that we did this past fall, and then pair it with the personalities, the makeup and the football intelligence. It’s been an unbelievable process to get some of the guys up on the board, talk about their film, have them regurgitate and teach us what they were taught and just how smooth it comes out from a lot of them.
“We’ve got to weighh those options. It’s not an easy decision at all.”
If they keep the pick, the Bears may be inclined to select former Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr.,from the combine that “it would be a blessing” to be the first player selected in the upcoming draft. He also responded to questions regarding his diminished production last year after having 17 sacks and over 100 tackles as a sophomore.
“If you understand and look at football, it’s more than just what you see on the sheet,” Anderson said. “There’s different ways to affect the quarterback. Getting him off his spot, getting him to throw interceptions and helping other people get sacks. Forcing and moving him around the pocket. Those are all the things as an elite rusher that you do; it’s more than just getting sacks.
“They say once you get one sack, they come in bunches. That’s one thing I try not to worry about. As long as I’m affecting the quarterback in some type of way … I know that I’m doing my job.”
The Bears have a lot of needs, but quarterback is not one of them. Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, enjoyed a steady progression during his first two seasons. Last year, despite being sacked a league-high 55 times, Fields made history by rushing for the second-highest rushing total of any quarterback for a single season in league history. He also averaged a league-high 7.1 yards per carry.
“We really feel, Ryan and I, that he took a big step last year,” Eberflus said of Fields. “He did a really good job of operating the offense … and midyear, he really started to take off. We’re really excited about that.”