Reviewing Bears’ Defensive Standouts From Thursday Night

| November 14th, 2023

Yesterday I finally got access to the Bears’ All-22 from Thursday Night — let’s review some defensive highlights.

Andrew Billings is the beating heart of the Bears’ run defense

First off, Andrew Billings is so much fun to watch work. I’m a sucker for a big dude in the trenches making plays, and that’s exactly what #97 has been for Chicago all season long.

He’s a force to be reckoned with, even when double-teamed at the point of attack — here, on 3rd & 1, he simply refuses to be moved. I’m happy to see him extended.

Bryce Young and the turf became well-acquainted throughout the game

The Panthers’ rookie signal-caller spent the majority of Thursday Night on his back — sometimes that was the fault of Carolina’s simple route concepts/poor OL play, but sometimes you saw nice moments from the Bears’ defensive line that seemed to get after him in a hurry.

Justin Jones created more pressures than I remembered on re-watch, Gervon Dexter had his moments, but Montez Sweat was all over Bryce Young from jump street and made a physical impact on every play he could.

First, here he is chasing Young down on a bootleg…

And later, a Bears blitz got Montez Sweat free off the edge and Sweat made Young pay the price as he got rid of the ball.

It was a nice, physical game for Sweat. He rushed the passer better than any other Bears’ defensive lineman and often provided the only pressure Chicago could muster on some plays — even if that pressure wasn’t more than just moving Bryce Young off his spot.

Sweat does seem to have an edge to him he wasn’t playing with in Carolina, so I can’t help but wonder if his role as a leader on this defense may be invigorating him. Either way, Carolina certainly felt his presence throughout the game.

The Bears’ young DBs popped

Kyler Gordon had far & away his best game as a Bear, and if anything I’m disappointed all I have is one highlight to show from his performance.

He was a demon in run defense and a problem Carolina couldn’t solve in both man and zone coverages. He hunted short throws underneath and matched feet with receivers both down the field and over the middle — considering that Gordon was one of the worst CBs in the NFL last year, it’s been inspiring to see the strides he’s made as he’s learned to channel his agility while also growing as man-cover defender.

He started the year hot with a nice game against Green Bay too, so here’s hoping games like this are signs of future play to come.

It wouldn’t be one of my reviews without my being unnecessarily positive on Tyrique Stevenson, and you’d better believe I’m not going to stop now!

Stevenson and Johnson both took far too many penalties throughout Thursday Night’s game, but my expectations for rookie DBs are so low that I don’t mind seeing them from #29 — he’s getting better every game at managing his own physicality with WRs, and it’s leading to more and more reps that look like the one listed below.

Of course, I’d still love to see Stevenson given more chances to press his WR… but that’s a conversation for another day.

Gervon Dexter seems to be settling in

The recent Bears’ 2nd rounder struggled with basic movement as recently as the preseason, but seems to be settling inย nicely at the halfway point of the season — the cross-chop he’s been working on since August is starting to show fruit, though the fruit isn’t ripe yet. Still, it’s nice to see that he’s improving.

Dexter is a project, but the juice feels worth the squeeze when you remember how naturally strong he is. Reps like the one below (where he simply throws his man aside) provide a light at the end of Dexter’s developmental tunnel — if he can learn to strike more efficiently and access that kind of power-base more often, he could be dangerous as both a 1-Tech & 3-Tech defensive lineman.

He still has plenty of technical issues to clean up, but he should be able to hone in on those issues as he gets more playing time — he played 29 snaps on Thursday, more than Andrew Billings, and if that’s any indication of how the coaches will continue to deploy him I imagine he’ll have plenty of time to work on his problem areas.

Note: Zacch Pickens also had quite a good game, though he only played 12 snaps to Gervon’s 29. I’ll try to get a clip or two up of his handiwork later.

Your Turn: What stood out to you in Thursday’s defensive effort?

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