LAKE FOREST – Seemingly everywhere they went this spring, Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens kept running into each other. Interviewing with NFL teams ahead of the draft means flying all across the country for in-person visits.
Dexter and Pickens kept seeing each other at the airport.
“When we was flying places, we was always together, so I was like, ‘I feel like we’re going to be together,’” Pickens said. “Then what do you know, the Bears drafted him, then they drafted me. I was like, we’re going to have fun with this.”
The Bears drafted Dexter out of Florida with a second-round draft pick, 53rd overall, and then took Pickens out of South Carolina in the third round, 64th overall. As Pickens predicted, they ended up together.
Pickens texted Dexter after the draft and said it was time to take over, and “we could easily be the dynamic duo.”
The Bears have high expectations for their new defensive tackles as they open rookie minicamp this weekend in Lake Forest. More than 60 players, including all 10 draft picks, participated in a two-hour practice Friday at Halas Hall. They will have a second session Saturday.
Head coach Matt Eberflus has to set about retooling his defensive line and hopes Dexter and Pickens will help. The Bears were one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year. They recorded a league-worst 20 sacks, and they had the 31st-ranked run defense.
Simply put, the Bears have to be better on the interior. That’s what Dexter and Pickens are here to do.
“I want to see movement,” Eberflus said when asked about them. “I want to see get off. I want to see disruption. We’ll be able to see that – the athleticism. You know, being a good D-tackle – we’ve had some good ones – it’s the ability to stay on your feet and stay alive on the play.”
Dexter and Pickens are both athletic defensive tackles. They are both tall, long and quick. Dexter measures in at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, while Pickens is 6-3, 291.
Pickens played last season at 305. He dropped weight after the season during the pre-draft process because he wanted to be quicker when he tested at the combine and at his pro day.
“That’s just something that’s crazy,” Pickens said. “You spend just a [while] training for the 40.”
Now, it’s back to football. Running the 40 quickly is one thing, but now it’s time to put those skill to work on the football field.
Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams said veteran Justin Jones will be the starting “3-technique” on the defensive line, a position that Eberflus has called the engine of his 4-3 defensive scheme. It’s possible that neither Dexter nor Pickens will be in the starting lineup in Week 1. Jones and veteran free agent Andrew Billings appear likely to be the starters. But every good defensive line needs six, seven, even eight players in the rotation.
“If we’re going to be great, that’s what we’re going to need to have, so we’re working towards that,” Williams said.
Tillman visits with rookies: Bears great Charles “Peanut” Tillman visited with the Bears’ rookies at rookie minicamp Friday. Since he was hired last year, Eberflus has made it a point to seek out advice from former Bears. Tillman spoke at rookie minicamp last year, as well.
Eberflus said Tillman’s message to the rookie was all about being a competitor. All 60-plus players at rookie minicamp are competing for jobs, and the NFL is a cutthroat business.
“[Don’t] be afraid to take chances,” Pickens said Tillman told them. “When there’s an opportunity, take it. Don’t take it for granted. Always show up, show out, do what you’re supposed to do in that moment.”
Vision for Wright: No. 10 overall draft pick Darnell Wright already is “close to where we want him to be,” Eberflus said. The Bears have hopes of slotting Wright into the starting right tackle job. They love his athleticism for a 6-5, 333-pound tackle.
The Bears like their offensive linemen to be quick and athletic. A year ago, the team had many of its linemen trying to lose weight at this time of year. Wright indicated that he is trying to cut his weight down a little bit.
“I don’t know exactly what the [target] weight is, but it’s definitely not where I’m at right now,” Wright said.