LAKE FOREST, Ill., —Chicago Bears wide receiver and returner Velus Jones Jr. had one of the most scrutinized rookie seasons in recent memory, and many fans question if he is worth keeping on the roster long-term after a series of poor performances in 2022. Bears general manager Ryan Poles raised a lot of eyebrows when he selected the former Tennessee Volunteer with the 71st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, as Jones entered the league as a 25-year-old rookie who wasn’t widely considered a promising receiver due to his below- Average wing span and the basic routes here at Tennessee.
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What Poles did like about Jones, and what he displayed flashes of in his rookie campaign, what his blazing speed (running an impressive 4.31 40-yard-dash at the 2022 NFL Combine) and his crack to break tackles and fight for extra yardage. Jones used these skills to establish himself as one of college football’s best kick returners, notching awards like SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year in 2021.
At the pro level, Jones showed clear growing pains with adjusting to the speed of the NFL. By being responsible for some critical special teams miscues early on in the season, Jones limited the chances he had to contribute as a wide receiver and establish chemistry with second-year signal caller Justin Fields and lost out on punt return opportunities to wide receiver Dante Pettis . He finished with an unremarkable 107 yards on seven receptions and 103 rushing yards on nine attempts. On kick returns, he contributed most by registering 607 yards on 22 attempts, averaging 27.6 yards per return.
2022 stat line: 12 games played, 7 receptions, 107 receiving yards, 103 rushing yards, 25 punt return yards, 607 kick return yards.
Overall, a lot of improvement needs to be seen from Jones if he hopes to stay a Chicago Bear for a long time. Let’s take a look at the highs and lows of his inaugural NFL season.
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