LAKE FOREST, Ill., — Defensive back Jaylon Johnson already seeing culture shift with Chicago Bears under head coach Matt Eberflus. It’s been six months since Eberflus took over and Johnson is already noticing some differences in coaching style.
During his Tuesday media session, Johnson discussed what’s different now that Eberflus is in the building. He kept emphasizing two things: the fundamentals and being held accountable.
“The way they just hold us indebted is crazy compared to what we’re used to, really,” Johnson said. “But I feel like it’s all going to pay off. You can never be too fit. You can never be too physical. You can never play football hard enough.”
So far, in OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, it’s clear that Eberflus and his team have insisted on the fundamentals of the game, including the little things. It has been noted by myself and other reporters that the defense has been running for the ball whenever it is on the ground, playing on the whistle.
“I feel like it really comes down to the fundamentals, really just playing hard football,” Johnson said. “Playing football the right way. I think they’ve established a good sense of tough football. And I wouldn’t say our last coaching staff didn’t. I just think they put a lot more of the accent.”
But that’s not all. Eberflus mentioned that the team will need to have their running shoes ready at the start of practice because he wants his team to play fast. And that includes getting out and running a lot more.
“They focus on running the ball, as you know. We have to be in good shape. We’re going to run a lot more,” Johnson said. “Everything is just emphasized differently. Everything is just rehearsed, and I mean the way they count the loaves.”
Coaches also emphasize this in film studies. Johnson and defensive lineman justin jones noted that coaches speak out and attack players during film sessions if they don’t run for the ball every play. Johnson joked that if someone says they haven’t been called out for being tough, so he’s lying.
After the Bears fired Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace after a 6-11 season, Eberflus and Ryan Poles have a heavy task ahead of them. But Johnson seems confident that not only can they do, but this roster, which looks very different, can do together. And that starts with setting the standard.
“Just setting the standard, really, is my biggest thing because it’s different from what the norm was last year,” Johnson said. “So it’s hard to say ‘to raise it,’ but they come in and re-establish a different culture, re-establish a different foundation, a different way of doing things, a different way of moving. But I really have the “feel like it starts with the foundation and establishing what they want us to do as a leader. Establishing their foundation and getting the guys to buy into it. Then once we establish that, we can go further, and I would say to raise that level.”
Johnson seemed more upbeat when he met the media for Tuesday’s session. He carried a bit of swagger to him that you could feel in the room as he spoke. He doesn’t seem bothered by this new coaching style or philosophy and how they hold players accountable (see, there’s that word again). And that’s a good thing, as he pointed out.
“I feel like it’s all for good measure, for a good purpose,” Johnson said. “But it’s definitely going to be a challenge and I feel like we’re up for it.”