Bears Insider

Gervon Dexter improving daily, but rebuild process will take time

The Bears will be patient with Gervon Dexter


LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Most top-60 NFL draft picks are expected to arrive and make an immediate high-level contribution. That comes with having your name called in the first two rounds.

Things might be different for Bears defensive tackle Gervon Dexter. The Florida product has the size, strength, athleticism, and explosion to be a disruptive three-technique. But he's also very early on in his football life. Dexter didn't start playing football until his junior season in high school. That late start, combined with playing in Florida's read-and-react defense, means the Bears will have to rebuild him from the ground up.

That process started after Day 1 of rookie minicamp. There's no timeline for the finished product. The Bears will be patient with Dexter. He is making constant improvements but also has a long way to go.

"Everyone is different," defensive line coach Travis Smith said Wednesday after the Bears' fifth OTA practice "He’s a younger player who hasn’t played a ton of football. He played in a different type of system. The thing for him is it starts with the stance. Every rookie that comes in – when I was a younger coach, you never even talked about a stance. You just get a stance. It’s a stance. You get in the stance. It’s a three-point stance, whatever. It’s not that way anymore. It’s the simplest thing that we make sure we detail first before we can go to step 2, 3, or 4. We can all sit here like, ‘I want a violent rusher with a cross chop, pump, all that s--t.’ Well, if I can’t get him in the stance, all that other stuff doesn’t matter.

"With him, we’re working on just starting with, ‘Hey, where’s our weight? Is it in our hands? Are our heels down? Are we on the balls of our feet? Are we vertically stepping? Are we read stepping?’ There are different things that he used to do that we are getting out of the habit of. Is it 100 percent of the time? No. But is it getting better every day? I haven’t watched all the film from today, but there are things we saw flash in practice that we corrected from yesterday that he has already improved on.”

That doesn't mean the Bears aren't expecting Dexter to contribute this fall. But it does mean that expectations should be tempered. Could things click midseason and see Dexter take over as the dominant force in the interior of the defensive line? It's possible. But it's also possible that Dexter is more of a run-stopping under tackle in Year 1 while the Bears refine and perfect his technique.

The Bears "graded the flashes" when selecting Dexter in the second round. They knew the get-off might not be optimal and that he would be more of a project than some second-round picks. But they also saw that he has the unteachable traits that are the foundation of a dominant player. 

What Dexter has shown the Bears since he arrived is that he wants to be great. That's vital as he begins this journey.

“He has two things right now: He loves football, I think it’s very important to him, and he is a big man that’s athletic," Smith said. "A big man that’s athletic that can stay on their feet for that size and not get moved, or he can create a new line of scrimmage, those are great traits to have. As long as he still loves football and doesn’t mind chasing the football and me getting a little bit after him, he’s going to keep improving.

"So far his biggest asset on top of that he’s big, he’s physical, he’s fast," defensive coordinator Alan Williams echoed. "I think I looked at our GPS, and boy, he is running fast. But the best thing that I noticed is the willingness to be coached, the willingness to learn. So as hard as you can coach him, boy, he loves that, and he excels with that. So I’m really liking that part of it."

The Bears' defense struggled to stop the run and affect the quarterback last season. The addition of Dexter, along with third-round pick Zacch Pickens and seventh-round pick Travis Bell, should give the interior of the defensive line more life this fall.

While none of the Bears' rookies will be finished products this falls, the Bears can see the mountaintop as they start their ascent. The future is bright, but patience will be required.

“You see movement skills, you see athleticism," Smith said when asked about Dexter and Pickens. "Whatever it is you like or you want to improve but also keep Travis Bell in there too. I know he was a later pick. Don’t matter. Don’t matter where you are drafted, only matters if you play the right way. There’s things that we like that we see them fitting in our system that’s going to help our group of rush men.”

Helping field a disruptive group is what the Bears need from the three rookies this fall. The rest might have to come later.

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