LAKE FOREST – The clips are everywhere on the internet. And they don’t look good.
The Bears schemed up a game plan Sunday against the Packers that was heavy on short passes out wide. Those types of plays required that linemen can move out wide quickly, and that receivers can block for their teammates.
Claypool displayed little ability to block his opponents and, at times, no desire to even try. As a receiver, he did not make a single reception in the game. He was targeted twice.
Head coach Matt Eberflus said Wednesday at Halas Hall that he already met with Claypool to discuss his efforts as a blocker.
“Yeah, again, you all saw the plays,” Eberflus said. “And again, the perimeter blocking needed to improve for all of us, and we’re going to get that, work hard to get that done.”
For a coach who preaches about his H.I.T.S. principle (Hustle, Intensity, Takeaways and Smarts), that effort couldn’t have gone over well behind closed doors. Claypool showed a complete lack of hustle, intensity or smarts. There are several plays where Claypool whiffed or barely grazed his opponent, despite being in position to make a block.
Asked specifically about Claypool’s effort blocking, Eberflus said blocking comes down to technique.
“He’s displayed good technique in practice on that,” Eberflus said. “That’s why we had him in those positions. But perimeter blocking’s all about technique. It’s all about your angles. Your intensity, for sure. It’s always about that. It doesn’t matter if you’re push-cracking on a linebacker or cracking down on somebody inside. That’s what it’s always about.”
Claypool was not made available for comment Wednesday.
He missed a large stretch of training camp because of injury and only just returned for a week or two ahead of the season opener.
On Sunday, the Bears made the curious choice to make healthy receiver Equanimeous St. Brown inactive. Many coaches and players on the team consistently point toward St. Brown’s blocking abilities as his best quality.
“He’s a great run blocker for us,” quarterback Justin Fields said Wednesday. “He always has been since last year, and he knows the playbook like the back of his hand. He’s really smart. I think he’s a leader in the receiver room. So just that part. Perimeter blocking, he’s really good at that. I think that’s probably one thing that we missed [Sunday].”
Eberflus declined to say whether Claypool could be inactive next week instead of St. Brown. The Bears have seven receivers on the rosters and, with only 46 spots on game day, NFL teams rarely dress seven. The Bears dressed five Sunday, with St. Brown and Velus Jones Jr. inactive. It’s possible they could dress six, but they would have to sacrifice a spot at another position.
It would be a shock if Claypool were to be a healthy scratch at any point this season. This is a player who the Bears paid a big price to acquire. At the trade deadline last year, the Bears traded their second-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Claypool. The Bears were 3-5 at the time, and general manager Ryan Poles probably thought that pick would wind up in the late 30s or early 40s in the draft order. But a 10-game losing streak to end the season landed the Bears with the No. 1 overall pick.
That second-round pick they traded to Pittsburgh wound up being the first pick of the second round, No. 32 overall last spring. In eight games with the Bears, Claypool has caught 14 passes for 140 yards. The production needs to improve. A coach can deal with a poor blocking receiver if the guy is making big plays for the offense.
Right now, Claypool is neither blocking, nor catching passes.