LAKE FOREST – The Bears aren’t playing for a playoff berth against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on Sunday, but the team’s regular-season finale will offer an opportunity for some young players trying to secure a roster spot in 2023, whether with the Bears or elsewhere.
“Obviously a lot of opportunities this week for a lot of guys because of the injury situation we’re in,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “Those guys are looking forward to that, looking forward to executing and putting their best foot forward.”
The Bears coaching staff will get a chance to look at different position groups, but the team’s secondary will be highlighted with most of its starters out Sunday. The Bears placed cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson (finger) and Kindle Vildor (ankle) on injured reserve on Dec. 23 while Kyler Gordon (groin) is listed questionable against the Vikings and Jaylon Jones (concussion) is out.
Eberflus said on Friday that he is excited to see how cornerbacks Michael Ojemudia, Breon Borders and others make the most of their opportunity. Neither Ojemudia nor Borders have played this season; Borders signed with the team on Nov. 22 and was elevated from the practice squad on Dec. 23 while the Bears claimed Ojemudia on Dec. 28.
“It’s important that they put their best foot forward,” Eberflus said. “The techniques and the fundamentals that we teach are simple and they’ve been working on them since they’ve been here. I’m excited about the opportunity for those guys. We get a chance to look at those guys.”
Ojemudia and Borders will have a tall task trying to defend the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson, one of the best wideouts in the league. The third-year wide receiver leads the league in receiving yards with 1,771 on 124 receptions, averaging 110.7 yards per game, and has caught eight touchdowns.
Jefferson shined in his first game against the Bears on Oct. 9, bringing in 12 receptions for 154 yards, his fourth-highest total of the season. He’ll be motivated against the Bears as the Vikings try to lock up the No. 2 seed in the NFL playoffs with a win and Jefferson is 194 yards away from setting the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season.
“He’s a great talent,” Eberflus said of Jefferson. “He’s very strong and he can do all things that you want a receiver to do.”
Eberflus is looking from a strong start from everybody, not just players trying to show their worth on the team. Despite setting a franchise record with nine straight losses and being on the verge of setting the franchise record in losses if the Bears lose their 14th against the Vikings on Sunday, the coach will be looking at effort as the season ends.
“We want to see guys finish,” Eberflus said. “We want to see guys do things the right way, play the right style.”
Defensive lineman Angleo Blackson (illness) is questionable after not practicing all week as well as defensive lineman Terrell Lewis (illness).