Kyler Gordon

How Kyler Gordon has slowed down his mind to play better at Bears OTAs

Kyler Gordon says he's more confident this season, and his Bears coaches have noticed

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The Bears have gone about restructuring a huge chunk of their defense this year, and hope that all the changes will bring about more effective play. There were the two big free agent signings in Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Walker, additions on the defensive line in DeMarcus Walker, Rasheem Green and Andrew Billings, and several draft picks to infuse talent both in the front seven and in the secondary. Last year, the defense ranked near the bottom of the league in practically any category you can imagine, so those changes were necessary. But one small tweak could make as big of an impact as any of the other moves.

This year, the Bears are asking Kyler Gordon to only play in the slot, as opposed to playing slot and outside corner. The narrower purview, paired with an offseason to reflect on his rookie campaign has helped Gordon slow down his mind so that he can play faster, and his coaches have taken notice.

“It is a product of not being a rookie,” said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. “It’s just relaxing. Last year everything was just in a frenzy because he wants to please, he wants to do, he wants to be so good, so it’s just ah, ah, ah, all the time. Now he’s ok, he’s relaxing. He’s playing within himself. He’s got his feet up underneath him.”

When a player is just “ah, ah, ah, ah, all the time,” as Williams said, the Bears say his RPMs are in the red, like a car engine that’s revving too high. Gordon admitted that was sometimes the case last year, especially during the team’s summer program.

“It definitely was a thing during training camp because I was playing nickel, corner, and I’d be with the ones, twos and threes,” Gordon said. “I was feeling it all in my legs. It was a lot. But I still appreciated it because I needed those reps and experiences. I understand why I was out there a lot and stuff like that.”

Gordon struggled early in the year, and that large workload probably contributed. But his play slowly improved as the year went on and the workload may have helped him in the long run. Now, Gordon says that year is behind him, and he’s learned what he needed to learn from the experience.

Matt Eberflus called Gordon’s struggles part of the process for a rookie CB like Gordon, and that Gordon had to go through it. Now Eberflus sees a more confident player on the field, and Gordon agrees.

“I do feel extremely comfortable,” Gordon said. “I feel like I know my place, where I’m supposed to be and stuff like that, so definitely coming back this second year, I definitely don’t have any of the ‘where am I?’ like I did the first year. I feel like I know where I’m at, what’s going on.”

That’s to say, Gordon is more honed in on his proper alignments, where his eyes are supposed to go and what he’s supposed to key in on when looking at the offense. Before he may have taken in too much info, including things that weren’t relevant to his job on a particular play. Now Gordon is better at cutting out the noise. Accordingly, the RPMs of the gears in his head get out of the red.

“So then, if they’re not in the red all the time, he is mentally alert but is physically relaxed in how he’s playing now,” Williams said. “That doesn’t mean that he’s not going fast and he’s not hustling and running to the ball. It just means that his RPMs aren’t super high.”

It harkens back to a concept we hear a lot about young athletes: thinking less and playing more. In other words, if a player isn’t perseverating on what he’s supposed to do each and every snap, he can play more freely and fly to the football. Thinking less obviously makes the game less mentally taxing. Gordon says it makes the game less physically taxing, too.

“Being more calm and just being more efficient with the stuff I do allows me to have that energy still in my body to use it for whatever I want to use, instead of just wasting it just having high RPMs. Being under control in everything I do, that definitely helps and allows me to do things easier.”

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