Inside Claypool's education in Bears' complex offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The 26 snaps Chase Claypool played in his Bears debut were more than most expected. The 24-year-old receiver hit the playbook hard and learned as much of the Bears' offense as he could in five days with the help of quarterback Justin Fields, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, and others.
The Bears gave Claypool just a handful of plays to learn for his debut. Claypool had those plays down, but things move at warp speed in the NFL, and he caught himself in the wrong place at times during the 35-32 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
"Toward the end of the game, I had to go get Dante [Pettis] out," Claypool said Wednesday. "I knew the plays I was supposed to be in for, and then a couple of those plays I wasn't supposed to be in there. So I definitely had to ask. I didn't know."
That Claypool was able to play 26 snaps and make an impact (two catches, 13 yards, one pass interference penalty drawn) is a testament to his talent and football IQ.
But getting Claypool from Point A to Point F will take some time. At times against the Dolphins, Claypool seemed confused about his alignment pre-snap. He has only been in Chicago for a week and is picking up new things about the Bears' offense with each practice, walk-through, and film session.
"The more he’s with our offense, the more he practices, I think the more he’ll be able to focus on the details of each and every route," quarterback Justin Fields said Wednesday. "Like you said, last week he was kinda thrown in there, so the more time he has with usー we just found out at walkthrough that he just found out about one of our second cadences.
"He’s learning our offense each and every day and he’s going to continue to learn and continue to get more detailed on each and every route and concept that we have."
It will be a process for Claypool to become fully versed in the Bears' offense. Mooney has been learning the scheme since the spring, and he has only started to get fully comfortable over the last few weeks.
The Bears' No. 1 receiver has been an integral part of getting Claypool up to speed. He offered to host Claypool at his house last week to go over terminology in the playbook and answer any questions his new teammate might have.
"I told him, like, this playbook is pretty difficult," Darnell Mooney told NBC Sports Chicago after Claypool's arrival. "The words in it, like sometimes it doesn't make any sense, you got to put it into your own thought process. I was like, 'anything you need, I'm helping you. I don't know how they were in Pittsburgh, I don't know how they were in Notre Dame with Cole, like I'll help you regardless of what you think. I'll help you for sure.'"
Fields stayed late with Claypool last week to run routes and get on the same page. Bears wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert and his assistant Omar Young spent a lot of one-on-one time with Claypool going over formations and motions.
Claypool's biggest adjustment comes in how the Bears plan to use him and how that differs from his role with the Steelers.
"The biggest thing is that I have a different route tree now," Claypool said. "So, like all year, I haven’t caught these certain routes. We’re getting just a little bit of extra work with that. That’s the only adjustment, I feel like, in terms of what’s different.”
The third-year receiver is hopeful he can fully grasp the playbook in one to two weeks.
With extra throwing sessions with Fields, some more time with the playbook, and a lot of time on task, Claypool is confident he can accelerate the learning process.
“You can look at the playbook for X amount of hours or whatever. But walking through it helps a lot," Claypool said. "I just think that having that full week of practice, understanding what’s going on rather than looking at it and seeing people running around and stuff. Now that I look, ‘what’s the play?’ I don’t have to be in there, it’s more mental reps.”
It has only been one game, but Claypool is ecstatic about his fresh start in Chicago. Of course, playing with Fields is part of that excitement, but Claypool has loved what he has seen from offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and how he diversifies his attack.
Claypool's tenure with the Steelers ended abruptly. After recording over 800 yards in each of his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, the Steelers tried to move Claypool into the slot this season and gave him fewer opportunities to make splash plays down the field and in the red zone.
Those are opportunities Claypool believes he will get in Chicago.
“I think they look at me as a valuable player, obviously," Claypool said. "That’s why they traded for me. I just think they will give me more opportunities to make plays and stuff like that. Just a matter of time before we can get that ball rolling in terms of more plays, them knowing I’m comfortable with it.”
The education of Chase Claypool will take time. But he has already hit the ground running and is putting in all the necessary hours to become proficient as soon as possible.
It won't happen overnight, but the hope is that ball will get rolling sooner rather than later.
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