Chicago Bears Tap Beginners Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker to Help Rebuild Secondary

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears used their two best draft picks last month to make a unit that desperately needed change.

Chicago’s secondary was among the NFL’s worst in 2021. The Bears ranked last in the passing rating allowed (103.3) and gave up the second most yards per game. care attempts (7.6). They finished with the third fewest interceptions (8), five of which were made by a safety and only one from cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Of the 31 passing touchdowns Chicago allowed (looked like the second most in franchise history), a cornerback was the closest defensive player at 27, according to the NFL Next Gen Stats, which was the most in the NFL.

So the Bears took defensive backs with their first two picks: Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon as No. 39 and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker as No. 48. The pair are queuing up to become the first set of rookies to start Week 1 of Chicago’s secondary. since the early 1970s.

Chicago’s 11-man draft class – and exhausted free agents – merged with the veteran team for the first time this week when the OTAs began. At the start of training, nothing was given to Gordon or Brisker. Rookies switched in with backups during Tuesday’s training, but it may not be long before they get the opportunity to grab the starting roles.

“Kyler has been on fire for the last two days,” coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday. “The guy has tremendous ball skills. He has played the defense the right way and we are very impressed with him.

Within the low season, the Bears had two starters returning in the secondary in Johnson and safety Eddie Jackson, who hopes to recover from a wiretapping date dated December 29, 2019. Despite not playing up to the four-year-old $ 58.4 million extension signed In January 2020, Chicago’s new regime kept Jackson in the fold and bet on what Eberflus referred to as “a clean slate” to help the veteran get back in shape.

“I think it’s probably one of my worst seasons,” Jackson said of 2021. “I gave up too many deep balls. Just trying to eliminate it. The little things with your eyes, breaking the ball, attention. on details. Small things, small corrections that you could make. “

Landing a strong security with Briskers versatility should benefit Jackson. Brisker was one of two players in FBS last season who played 400 snaps in safety, 100 snaps on inside linebacker and 100 snaps on slot corner, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also played 78 snaps on outside linebacker.

With such versatility, the Bears could decide to play Jackson more often in deep safety and put Brisker, who recorded 152 tackles, 7.0 tackles for a loss, five interceptions and 19 passing fouls in three seasons, up the field where he thrived. in Penn State.

“I feel like I’m an old-fashioned security,” Brisker said. “I love being physical, but at the same time I can show my versatility at the back end. I can attack the ball, I can cover, and then of course I love hitting the field. I love tackling and taking on blocks. ”

Johnson enters his third year as a pro and comes after a solid season where he collected 46 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and nine defensive passes.

“It’s a complete reset,” Johnson said. “Everything I’ve done in the past with the other coaches, with the other staff, it really does not matter too much. The film is not going to lie to you, but in the end they want me to show them what I do. personally can do forward. “

Eberflus, who spent the last four seasons as the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive coordinator, brings a philosophy based on turnover (the Colts had 33 in 2021, one shy away from league leader Dallas). Jackson and Johnson both noted how this arrangement gives defensive backs more opportunities to keep their eyes locked on the quarterback and play on the ball.

Another Eberflus feature is that Indianapolis was in its nickel defense with the second-highest rate in the NFL (77.2%).

The Bears bought former Ravens castle corner Tavon Young in free agency. Although injuries have been widespread throughout Young’s career, Chicago seems to put the pieces of the secondary together with the idea of ​​having a veteran nickel – at least to start with.

“The nickel is probably the most difficult position on the football field,” said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. “He has to fit like a linebacker and a safety, he has to cover like a corner, he has to have the mentality like a ‘Mike’ linebacker. So to have [Gordon] go outside and inside, it’s hard for a rookie. To be able to keep him in one place and let him go and develop and learn and feel comfortable, right now that’s the plan. ”

Gordon will start working as an outside corner, according to Williams. The former Washington standout, who did not allow a touchdown in 696 coverage shots during his college career, came to Chicago with the ability to play inside and out. His mobility, something he attributes to cultivating ballet and other competition in dance as a child, gives him the ability to play multiple places in secondary, giving the Bears the advantage of being able to move him around if necessary.

“The great thing about him is that his mobility is unique,” said general manager Ryan Poles. “He’s tough. The other thing you love about him is just the instincts. He has a good feel for the game.”

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