It’s Mini-Bye week in Chicago! With that in mind, let’s check in on the 2023 Bears rookie class — today, we’ll do the first & second round players, then tomorrow we’ll cover the rest of the class.
- Overall: In my opinion, Wright has been about as good as you can ask a rookie tackle to be. He’s displayed natural power in his hands both as a run and a pass blocker, but it’s been his pass-blocking that’s stood out through 5 games so far. Wright is often left on an island with little to no help and fends for himself nicely — he’s been beaten at least once or twice in every game he’s played in, but that’s all part of playing tackle as a rookie.
- The key is that he bounces back — getting beaten happens at tackle, but he doesn’t let bad reps snowball. Montez Sweat beat him early in Washington (just like Rashan Gary beat him early in Week 1) but he adjusted his kick-step in later reps and held Sweat off as the game wore on. I love seeing that from a young-gun.
- Where he’s surprised me: Wright is fast when he’s run-blocking on the move, which I didn’t expect based on his Tennessee film. That WR conditioning test clearly paid off.
- Improvement area: Wright’s kick-step can be sluggish off the snap, making him vulnerable to rushers that can bend the edge with speed. Players like Montez Sweat, Rashan Gary, Aiden Hutchinson and others will give him trouble until this is resolved, but I doubt this problem will persist for long. If the issue is still present closer to Week 11, we’ll take a deeper look.
Gervon Dexter Sr:
- Overall: So far Dexter has looked more raw than I expected him to at the NFL level, and my expectations weren’t particularly high for his rookie year — his Florida film showed a bully with the brawn to take on anybody, but NFL OL are taking advantage of Gervon’s naturally high pad level and have stopped him in his tracks.
- He clearly spent the preseason working on his get-off (which doesn’t appear to be an issue anymore), but now he’s got to find a way to apply his natural power to reps more often — if he can, he’ll impact many more reps.
- Where he’s surprised me: Dexter did a much better job of landing strong hands on his OL matchups early in reps against Washington, leading to some of his first pass rush wins of the season. You can see his power flash in reps like the two clips below (second one is a reply to the first, so click the link to see it).
- Improvement area: Beyond Dexter refining his fundamentals and finding way to lower his pad-level, right now Gervon Dexter has a funky quirk as a pass-rusher — I’m not convinced he can rush to his left. Even going back to Florida, he’s always preferred to attack towards his right-hand side or drive through his OL, and while he did attempt a few left-side rush attempts against Washington, those reps looked much less dangerous than many of his other rushes in the game.
- This could be an offseason project, but keep an eye out — maybe Dexter surprises us.
Don't look now but Gervon Dexter Sr getting comfortable as a 1-Tech pass rusher — here he jumps on the Center early, keeps his feet moving, and rips right through him.
Not much hand-fighting to speak of here, just power on power and Dexter wins. Wades through the OL. pic.twitter.com/hmzZSnlM8V
— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) October 7, 2023
- Overall: I loved Stevenson’s game in school, but Matt Eberflus has often asked Tyrique to make plays with the weakest skills in his toolkit: his abilities to sit in a zone, drive on underneath throws, and tackle. Nevertheless Stevenson has persisted and against Washington I thought he started to show real developmental dividends — Washington OC Eric Bienemy seemed intent on attacking #29, but Stevenson mixed his trademark physicality with his unsung explosive lower half to shut down Terry McLaurin on multiple routes & break up a gorgeous deep ball intended for Logan Thomas.
- Corner (like Offensive Tackle) is an incredibly hard position to achieve early success with, but Stevenson seems to be adjusting better and better with each passing week. The late-hit fouls and DPIs are to be expected early in his career, but look for those fouls to taper off over the next few months — as Stevenson learns what does (and doesn’t) draw an NFL flag, he should be able to more efficiently apply his physicality at the top of routes.
- Where he’s surprised me: Everybody knows how physical & instinctive Stevenson can be, but his speed on a football field has really surprised me — you’ll often see #29 chase down ball-carriers from across the field in wonderful displays of hustle that go to show how much faster he is than many corners his size.
- That speed will be key as his career progresses, and should help him recover when he’s beaten by divisional receivers like Amon-Ra St Brown — no corner covers perfectly early in their career, so being able to quickly recover and make the tackle helps the defense continue to bend & not break.
- Improvement area: Honestly, Stevenson just needs experience — the jump from covering ACC receivers to covering Terry McLaurin, Jerry Jeudy, and Travis Kelce in successive weeks is brutal, especially since each new receiver brings with them a new way to win that Stevenson may have never seen before. The more matchups Stevenson sees, the better he’ll get in the long run.
- Kyler Gordon had to go through this same process last year, and Jaylon Johnson went through it years ago. If you ever feel frustrated at the young corner’s lack of results, remind yourself that the NFL punishes corners’ mistakes more than any other non-QB position — blow one coverage or bite on one double-move, and you just gave up a touchdown.
Plays like this show exactly why it's so tough to play CB in the NFL as a rookie — the line between 'doing too little' and 'doing too much' takes time to learn.
Here, Stevenson does everything right with his feet — breaks with the WR, takes a great angle, looks back for the… pic.twitter.com/xFPMqrguNX
— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) October 7, 2023
Your Turn: What are your thoughts on the rookie class so far?