Velus Jones Jr. Showing ‘Hunger,’ Speed After Being Thrown Into Fire at OTAs – NBC Chicago


Jones showing ‘hunger,’ speed after being thrown into fire at OTAs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST – Velus Jones Jr. turned 25 years old on May 11. He’s almost two months older than A.J. Brown, who just signed a massive four-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Eagles and is one of the top receivers in the NFL.

Jones, who the Bears drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, believes his age will benefit both him and the Bears early in his NFL career. At rookie minicamp, Jones painted a picture of a mature receiver focused on excelling at his job for the franchise that has faith in him.

“I think he has hunger,” wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said Tuesday during OTAs. “And you hit the nail right on the head: he has maturity. He already has his Master’s degree. So, he’s a smart guy, mature beyond his years, takes his job very seriously. He’s in the meetings taking really good notes. He brought his own little whiteboard, erase board. He’s taking notes and erasing, and he’s drawing plays. So, he takes his job very seriously.

“We’ve thrown him into the fire pretty quick, put him at two positions immediately. Get him to learn it now. Because we want him to learn the whole concept. But specifically, a couple of positions to get him going, so whenever he can … the more he can do, the more obviously he’ll have a chance to play. So, we’re going to throw it all at him and see what he soaks in, and hopefully, he’ll get out there and make some plays for us.”

This offseason, the Bears’ unremarkable wide receivers’ room has been a topic of conversation.

Darnell Mooney will be the clear No. 1 receiver. But after him, the depth chart is relatively unknown. Behind Mooney, the Bears have Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dazz Newsome, Dante Pettis, and Tajae Sharpe.

All four of those receivers have NFL experience, but none jump off the page.

Jones was the only receiver the Bears selected in the draft. The hope is for the Tennessee product to play a role both on offense and in the return game. The two things that attracted the Bears to Jones – speed and versatility – are showing up early on in his NFL career.

“I think first thing you see is speed,” Tolbert said. “When you run 4.31, it’ll open up your eyes to a lot of things. But secondly, with the ball in his hands. He does a lot of things, makes a lot of explosive plays with the ball in his hands. And the last thing I would say is playing multiple positions. You can play him in the slot, put him outside, have him coming out of the backfield.

“He does a lot of different things to help our team, and he’s really good on special teams. A really good return guy – as a punt returner, kick returner, running down on kickoffs and making tackles, he does it all. He’s a well-rounded player.”

Second-year quarterback Justin Fields is already exceeding expectations this offseason. But in order for him to take the Year 2 leap from talented young signal-caller to budding star, he’ll need some support from the Bears’ offensive arsenal.

Mooney has excellent chemistry with Fields. The Bears need and expect more out of tight end Cole Kmet. David Montgomery and the running game will play a vital role in opening things up for Fields in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system.

But the Bears will need more from wide receivers not named Mooney if Fields is to survive and thrive in his second season.

That’s where Jones comes in. From the minute he became a Bear, Jones Jr. was hard at work “manifesting” with his new quarterback over text and FaceTime.

That “hunger” to be great has been apparent during OTAs. The Bears need the hard work and desire to pay off when the games begin.

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