LAKE FOREST — For the first time in five months, the Chicago Bears held a practice.
Sixty-two players, including the Bears’ 10 draft picks, showcased their abilities in front of the entire Bears coaching staff on day 1 of the team’s rookie minicamp
In addition, coach Matt Eberflus, first-round draft pick Darnell Wright, second-round pick Gervon Dexter Sr. and third-rounder Zacch Pickens spoke to the media before the practice. After the practice, second-round pick Tyrique Stevenson and fourth-round picks Roschon Johnson and Tyler Scott also spoke to reporters.
Here are my top takeaways from Day 1 of Bears rookie minicamp.
What Matt Eberflus wants to see during rookie minicamp
For some of the players invited to rookie minicamp, it’s their first football practice in roughly six months. So for Eberflus, he understands the players will be excited about putting on an NFL helmet and practice uniform for the first time.
“Yeah. I think it’s, obviously they’re very juiced up, which is great,” Eberflus said. “You ask them a question and they all say, ‘Yes, sir.’ You don’t usually get that with the veterans, but … But yeah, you have to navigate that a little bit. I want them to stay on their feet in terms of the physical part. Stay on their feet. No big collisions. Making sure we’re doing it the right way. And then really mentally just slow down, really retain the information and that’s up to the coaches to paint a good picture for those guys to be able to retain that information. But they’re OK there so far. “
Pickens said staying on his feet is one area he will focus on during this rookie minicamp. The last thing the Bears want to see is one of their 10 draft picks or these undrafted free agents go down while they’re in helmets and shorts.
When it comes to the interior defensive linemen, Eberflus also has a clear vision as to what he wants to see from that position group.
“Well, it’s importantー I want to see movement,” Eberflus said. “I want to see get off. I want to see disruption. We’ll be able to see thatー the athleticism. You know being a good D-tackleー we’ve had some good onesー it’s the ability to stay on your feet and stay alive on the play. Obviously pass rush up the middle is going to be important, to be able to evaluate that during the drills today, what we’re doing. When you have a dominating force inside of there, or when you have two really good players in there, that helps you in a lot of ways. That helps you in your run defense, that helps you in your pass rush right up the middle there. So we’re enthused by having those guys in there.”
Darnell Wright playing catchup
The past week for Darnell Wright has been like a whirlwind. But now the No. 10 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is beginning to feel a sense of calmness because of one simple thing: Football.
“Today has been a better day I feel like just mentally just cause I can play football and do football,” Wright said on Friday.
Despite Wright being a top 10 pick, he doesn’t feel the pressure of trying to be “the guy” at this moment. He is focused on this rookie minicamp and trying to become better each day. One of Wright’s priorities is to connect with his older teammates.
“You know they already have a head start on you a little bit,” Wright said. “Just catching up as much as I can. That will probably be the biggest thing.”
One of the players who has reached out is second-year offensive tackle Braxton Jones. The Bears’ left tackle has already had talks with Wright about the playbook and offered to help Wright if he has any questions about the plays.
Luckily, Wright said what the Bears are asking him to do isn’t much different than what he did at Tennessee. Two areas that Wright will take an adjustment, though, will be with learning the terminology and his playing weight. Wright doesn’t know the exact weight he will play at but it won’t be at his current 335 pounds.
Gervon Dexter fitting into the Bears’ defense
At Florida last season, Dexter was asked to do something different than what he will be doing in this Bears defense.
“So my responsibility at Florida in my junior year was more of two-gapping and kind of reacting,” Dexter said. “Basically, if the guard steps down, you step down with him, if he steps out, you step out with him. Here is more of a just go, get vertical, penetrate and reset the line of scrimmage.”
With Dexter now playing in a one-gap scheme where he can use his explosiveness to get up field, the second-round draft pick is excited to get acclimated to this Bears defense.
“Oh man, I loved it,” Dexter said. “That’s one of the things I feel like I do best, that’s kind of what I love doing, it’s what I wanted to do. It’s great for me.”
Bears coach Matt Eberflus said Dexter and fellow rookie Zacch Pickens have the ability to be interchangeable in this Bears defense. In Friday’s practice, Dexter and Pickens played at both the nose and the 3-tech — with Pickens playing more of the 3-tech position.
Given Dexter’s size, 6-foot-5, 310-pounds, he could be a candidate to play more at the 1-tech position this season.
Practice Camp Notes
- Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles started off the roughly two-hour practice watching the offensive line
- Fourth-round draft pick Tyler Scott was fielding punts. He did not have any registered punt returns at Cincinnati
- On the first play of team drills, Pickens got into the backfield and would’ve had a tackle for loss on Roschon Johnson
- Scott dropped two passes early on in practice, including a slant pass. In team drills, though, Scott ran a slant route and caught the pass. He also had a good reception in the middle of the field
- Dexter showed some good leverage and power on a run play, extending his arms against the interior offensive lineman to create separation. On the next play, Dexter showed quick burst to get into the back field and chased down quarterback Tyson Bagent
- Roschon Johnson had a big run down the right sideline, which Darnell Wright helped create. Important to remember, no tackling and the players are expected to finish out each play
- Tyrique Stevenson had nice coverage on a vertical route, but hurt his knee on the play. He did come back in after a few snaps. He also had some reps at the right and left boundary corner spots
- Fifth-round draft pick Terell Smith made a few nice plays in today’s practice. First, he elevated and intercepted a pass in team drills. Then Smith was in position to deliver a big hit over the middle of the field when he recognized the underneath crossing route
- Northwestern running back Andrew Clair showed some burst and speed throughout the practice
- Houston wide receiver KeSean Carter made a nice catch on an out-breaking route by high pointing the football.