Tyrique Stevenson

Bears' Tyrique Stevenson vows to be ‘smarter, better' rookie after mistakes vs. Colts

Tyrique Stevenson continues to learn on the job, but the real exams are right around the corner

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Tyrique Stevenson is learning on the job, and the lessons just keep coming.

The Bears' rookie gave up a 30-yard completion on his first preseason snap against the Tennessee Titans last week. He chalked it up to being over-amped for his first real NFL action, and the cornerback responded with a good half of football that was defined by sure tackling and impressive instincts.

But he also dropped an interception that had him vowing to hit the jugs machine after practice.

There were more lessons during the Bears' 24-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The first came near the end of the first quarter when Colts backup quarterback Gardner Minshew hit running back Kenyan Drake in the flat. Stevenson did a nice job of wrapping Drake up, but as the two went out of bounds, the rookie threw the running back to the ground for an obvious 15-yard penalty.

The Bears have raved about Stevenson's edge and nasty all camp. But they also want him to play smart and know where the line is. Head coach Matt Eberflus pulled Stevenson after the play and gave him a long talk on the sideline as the game continued.

"I coached him on really a couple things tonight but first was the penalty," Eberflus said after the loss. "I told him, 'Hey, when you get to the sideline like that, if the guy – he goes, ‘Well, my hand got caught in his shoulder pad,’ or whatever it was, and that may have been the case, but you have to do whatever you've got to do to let go of that. If you throw a guy down like that, they're going to call that 10 out of 10 times, and that's going to hurt our team."

Stevenson understood the lesson. It's one he's still learning. The Bears don't want to take his ferocity away, but Stevenson has to figure out how to harness that aggression and not unleash it in a way that hurts the team.

"Just be a little bit smarter," Stevenson said after the game. "I could have been better with my head across the ball, so I could see where I was at on the field. Once I looked up and he was heading to the ground, I realized we were in the white. So just gotta be a better rookie and have a lot more smarter plays and not cause the team any harmful penalties."

Eberflus put Stevenson back in the game after a couple plays. Sports are often cruel. The ball always seems to find the player(s) who aren't on their A-game. If you just made a mistake, then you can be sure the ball is coming back your way.

Sure enough, Stevenson was put right back under the microscope shortly after returning.

On third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Minshew dropped back and had all day to throw. He eventually zipped a pass toward Juwann Winfree in the back-right corner of the end zone. Stevenson read the play perfectly and was in an ideal position to pick off the pass. But Minshew put some extra heat on the throw, and it got on Stevenson in a hurry. The corner put his hands up late, and the pass whipped between them and into Winfree's chest for a touchdown.

"Definitely did," Stevenson said when asked if he just missed the ball. "Back to the drawing board. Two weeks in a row, two dropped interceptions. It’s really unacceptable. So back on the jugs after practice every day.

"It was everything was happening too fast," Stevenson continued. "I just looked up, and the ball was coming, and just happened to not shoot my hands up fast enough. I should have went up straight forward instead of trying to corral and catch the ball."

Taking the ball away is a key staple of Eberflus' H.I.T.S philosophy. That's two weeks in a row that Stevenson was in a position to make a play but couldn't complete the takeaway.

That's a borderline sin at Halas Hall these days.

Stevenson's mistakes are typical for a rookie corner. That's the position with the sharpest learning curve in the NFL. Just ask Kyler Gordon.

The Bears have immense belief in Stevenson and are confident that the edge that makes him special will be vital to their defense in 2023.

But the Tyrique Stevenson experience won't be without its speed bumps and potholes. There will be plenty of lessons for the NFL to teach Tyrique Stevenson this season.

Saturday's won't soon be forgotten.

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