CHICAGO -- Gervon Dexter and the Bears' plan to rebuild his stance gets all the attention. But there's another rookie defensive tackle that head coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams hope can provide support this season.
The Bears selected Zacch Pickens just 11 slots after Dexter. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle had 19 pressures and three sacks in 292 pass-rush snaps during his final season at South Carolina. He also registered a pass-rush win rate of 11.5 percent, per Pro Football Focus.
While most of the training camp focus is on Dexter's progress, the Bears have their own plan to help Pickens thrive early in his rookie season.
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The South Carolina product has the potential to be a disruptive three-technique in the NFL. The size, athleticism, length, and burst are all there. But the rookie must find a way to consistently put all of those together.
Pickens has improved each day since the pads came on, and the Bears are starting to see the desired growth from the third-round pick.
“I really like what he did this stack, the last three stacks here," Eberflus said of Pickens on Sunday after the Bears' practice at Soldier Field. "He did a really nice job. We really worked with him on his pass rush and real simple: just take off, long arm and then working one move from there and I think that he’s doing a really good job with that. When you have a rookie, you just keep it real small like that and a guy can improve, and when he gets that down you need to move onto the next thing. He’s doing a real nice job so far.”
Defensive tackle Justin Jones will play a vital role in the development of both Pickens and Dexter. As a trusted veteran in the defensive line room, the Bears are relying on Jones to help the rookie defensive tackles grow into the impactful players their talent suggests.
Jones sees the potential for greatness in Pickens. It's his job to help bring it out.
"I think he’s going to be good," Jones said Sunday. "He kind of reminds me of myself. Also a third-round pick coming out of NC State and everything. I was also playing nose my first year coming out of college. It’s for the same reason, really want you to use your hands and learn how to knock guys back and really get your feet in the ground, and stuff like that. I think he has the chance to be a really, really explosive D-lineman, because he definitely has the edge for it. He showed that at South Carolina. We’re just trying to get it where he can show it in the NFL."
Pickens popped during this latest stack of practices. He has generated consistent disruption, which has shown up in both the run and pass game.
During Sunday's practice, Pickens' best play came against the first-team offense in the two-minute, end-of-half drill.
On the first play from scrimmage, the offense ran an inside zone to D'Onta Foreman. Pickens diagnosed it quickly, shed center Cody Whitehair and stopped the play for a minimal gain.
Later in the day, Pickens flew off the ball and used his length to get past Ja'Tyre Carter to put pressure on Fields. Fields evaded the pressure and completed a pass to Chase Claypool, but the play was indicative of the type of impact Pickens can provide early in his career.
He just has to stick to the simple plan.