Chicago Bears fans have had difficulty defending GM Ryan Poles’ decision to select WR Velus Jones Jr. in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft since the pick was made. The 25-year-old rookie was the butt of many offseason jokes, but his high-flying skill set provided hope that, at some point, he’d flip the field and have the last laugh.
And while that’s still very much a possibility in 2022, the early returns on Jones have been spotty. Yes, he’s made a few nice plays for the Bears on offense, including his first career touchdown in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings:
And in Thursday night’s loss to the Washington Commanders, he converted a first down on a 10-yard scamper that was an excellent display of his ability after the catch.
But Jones has been more bad than good since returning from a hamstring injury in Week 4. He’s been a disaster as a punt returner, with two muffed punts at critical moments in two of the last three weeks.
His muffed punt against the New York Giants in Week 4 ended the Bears’ comeback attempt, and this horrendous play Thursday night essentially gave the Commanders the win:
I tweeted shortly after the play that Jones looked so lost on that rep that it’s as if it was the first time he ever fielded a punt in his football career.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus hinted after the game that a change at punt returner is coming. And it better. At this point, Jones cannot be trusted with the game on the line.
“We’re going to have to look at that,” said Eberflus. “I mean the No. 1 job of any kick returner, punt returner is to catch the ball. So we’re going to have to look at that.”
If catching the ball is the No. 1 job requirement, Jones is unqualified.
“It wasn’t a smart play,” said Jones Jr. “I’m a man, I own up to my mistakes, and that was a devastating blow. We wouldn’t be in that situation if that punt wasn’t muffed.”
At least Jones has self-awareness.
Would the Bears have beaten the Giants had Jones not muffed the punt in Week 4? Who knows. The odds were still stacked against them. But that wasn’t the case Thursday night. Chicago had momentum and the lead when Jones gave life to QB Carson Wentz and the Commanders. If he fielded the punt cleanly, the Bears would likely be 3-3 entering a long week before Week 7’s Monday night contest against the New England Patriots.
It’s safe to say Jones won’t be fielding another punt for a while.
“We’re not pointing fingers,” said Jaquan Brisker via NBC Sports Chicago. “There was literally a whole game out there, the whole game. It’s not just one play that affected us.”
Agree to disagree, Jaquan.