How Bears have noticed Gervon Dexter improvements, even before putting on the pads

The Bears won’t put the pads on at practice for some time, but the team has already noticed improvements from second-year defensive tackle Gervon Dexter. In fact, head coach Matt Eberflus saw a change before the team even hit the practice field.

“I noticed the body composition first,” Eberflus said on Thursday as the team wrapped up its first set of OTAs. “It was really good. He changed his body in the time he was off, so he’s much leaner now and he’s quicker.”

There’s not much to assess in the trenches when guys are practicing in shorts, but Eberflus did say Dexter’s get off at the snap was improved. Dexter’s quickness to react off the snap– or rather lack of quickness off the snap– was one of the bigger critiques of his game at this time last year. A big reason why is that Dexter was asked to read and react to the offensive line when he was in college, while the Bears simply want him to attack a single gap right away.

“That was one thing he had to work on and then pad level, because he’s such a big guy, tall guy,” said Eberflus. “And he’s worked on those things. But his movement, his athletic ability is even better now because he really worked on his body.”

New Bears defensive coordinator Eric Washington hasn’t seen Dexter work with pads on up close, but he could pick up on improvements from studying his 2023 tape.

“Just watching the footwork,” Washington said. “Some of those small but very, very important details with him. Watching his stance, watching his pad level.”

Washington also praised how Dexter is absorbing information at this point in the offseason and noted a “growing confidence” as Dexter makes the jump from Year One to Year Two.

“He’s assertive. He believes that he belongs in the lineup and he believes that he can be a major factor.”

The Bears will need Dexter to be a major factor, because former starting three-tech Justin Jones left in free agency and the Bears have yet to replace him. GM Ryan Poles added Byron Cowart in the offseason, but Cowart is not expected to put up starter’s snaps. That leaves Dexter to take over as the presumptive starter this season.

Dexter had a slow start to his rookie campaign, but noticeably improved as the season progressed. Accordingly, he enjoyed an uptick in playing time over the second half. Over the first nine games, Dexter averaged 23.5 snaps per game. That rose to 27.5 snaps over the last eight games.

His production increased, too. Dexter had no sacks, nine tackles and three QB hits from Weeks 1 through 9. But from Week 10 on he had 2.5 sacks, 11 tackles and nine QB hits.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.