When the Bears selected Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens in the second and third rounds of this year’s draft, one thing we heard over and over was that the team loved each man’s versatility as a defensive lineman. Sure enough, we’ve seen Dexter and Pickens each take reps at both three-tech and nose tackle throughout the summer. Lately, it seems like Pickens has found a home at nose while Dexter has worked as the three-tech, although the team has maintained they see the two as interchangeable. Coaches really value their versatility because it allows them to stay fluid and try new things.
During Saturday’s preseason finale against the Bills, we got a glimpse of what some of those new, interesting things the Bears can do with their versatility. On several passing downs we saw Dexter and Pickens each playing three-tech, at the same time. Usually the Bears have one nose tackle and one three-tech, but there was no nose for these snaps.
When asked what that look does for the defense after the game, Pickens kept it simple: “It’s scary.”
On Monday, defensive coordinator Alan Williams went into a little greater detail as to why the Bears like that specific look in obvious passing downs.
“We do like two big bodies in there and what that does for us, it pushes the pocket, and then so if you push the pocket and you get no A- or B-gap escapes, it gives those guys on the edge some room to get over the top and get to the quarterback without the quarterback having a chance to step up.”
The Bears had the league’s worst pass rush last season, and a lot of that had to do with poor pressure from the front four. If the defense wants to take a step forward this year, the biggest improvement will need to come from the D-line. It might be too early to ask for major contributions from the two rookies, but little tweaks like having Dexter and Pickens (or Dexter and Justin Jones, or Pickens and Jones) playing three-tech at the same time could be a way to scheme better opportunities for one of the tackles. By having each guy lined up at three-tech with no nose tackle, the defense is forcing the opposing offensive line to choose who they’re going to slide towards in protection. That should create a better opportunity for the other man. For instance if the o-line slides towards Pickens it sets up Dexter to have a prime pass-rushing chance.
“It gives one of us the one-on-one,” said Dexter. “Somebody has to get the slide when you have two three-techniques, and two bigger three-techniques who can penetrate, so somebody has to get the one-on-one.”
Winning one-on-ones was an issue last season, and at times we’ve seen both Dexter and Pickens flash athletic ability to win those one-on-ones. As the summer has gone on it’s become more and more clear why the Bears were drawn to them in the draft. However, it remains to be seen whether some training camp and preseason progress will really translate to regular season success.
Whether or not that success comes this year or not, the duo is confident that success will come eventually.
“We dap each other every time we are about to go on the field,” said Pickens. “We give each other confidence and that's the only thing I always wanted. If you believe it, he believes it. We're going to be alright, and I feel like if we play our cards right can't nobody stop us.”