Bears rookie minicamp takeaways: Plan to rebuild Gervon Dexter

Bears rookie minicamp takeaways: Plan to rebuild Gervon Dexter originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST -- On Friday, Bears second-round pick Gervon Dexter Sr. got his first NFL reps on Day 1 of rookie minicamp at Halas Hall.

The Florida product took most of his reps at the one-technique but did occasionally rotate in at the three-tech spot. Dexter initially showed good burst off the line, but the get-off slowed as the practice continued.

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Before practice, Dexter explained that the staff at Florida had him in more of a two-gap role which asked him to read the guard and react instead of just exploding upfield.

The Bears' decision to draft Dexter in the second round was seen as a reach by many draft analysts. But what the Bears saw was a 6-foot-6, 313-pound defensive tackle with rare movement skills.

"When you look at him, automatically what you guys saw here, the first thing you see is his size," Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith said Saturday. "He's a big dude. He takes up a lot of space. But the thing we do like about him, too, is he's young and raw. Hasn't played a lot of football. I'm big on, I care more about what you can do than what you can't do. So when I evaluate, I like to look at production. How are they getting production? What are they doing? See what they can do, then go to the whole part, watch the games. OK, what are they limited in? What are they struggling in?

"For him, there were flashes of everything. Physical. Penetrating. Converting off blocks. Being disruptive. Also, if you go back to his workout and you watch some of the things he can do athletically from his pro day, for a 6-6 man, he can move in gifted ways. Those are the things that you start to, as a coach — as a D-line coach especially — you fall in love with."


Dexter has the unteachable traits. But the production, in terms of sacks and pressures, wasn't consistently there at Florida. Part of that can be placed on the scheme responsibilities given to Dexter. But the lack of production also can be attributed to the slow get-off. That starts with Dexter's stance, alignment, and hands.

After Day 1 of minicamp, Smith and the Bears started rebuilding Dexter.

"For us, my thing is to keep it as simple as possible so I can see their speed," Smith said. "I want to see what they can do. I don't want to try to give them too much information than what they can remember. I want to see what you can do. I think the first day, you saw a little bit of what he has done for three, four years in high school and at Florida to now, we're getting him to understand, No. 1, how do we get aligned? What's the stance? Where's the weight? Is it in the heels, or is it in the hands? And then, how are we getting off?

"If you look at yesterday's practice, he was kind of in that stance that he has been used to that he has played for three years at Florida. We made a couple little tweaks today. We're just kind of getting used to some of -- we talk about building a man from the ground up. Some of the things we started with our group was just how do we get in the stance? Where is our weight distributed? What's our first step doing? Where are our eyes at? It's not something that's going to come like that because he has been playing in a different system for three years. But it's something that he understood and he felt, which is if you can understand and feel it and know the difference, then we are already making improvement steps."


There's reason to believe that Gervon Dexter's best football is ahead of him. He has all the physical tools to be an impactful defensive tackle for years at the NFL level.

But it's also clear that patience might be required. That while some teams use top-60 picks on guys who will deliver meaningful snaps on Day 1, Dexter might not flash until sometime down the road.

Here are more notes from the final day of rookie minicamp:

-- While patience might be required with Dexter, first-round pick Darnell Wright appears to have entered the NFL ahead of schedule compared to the normal rookie offensive lineman.


“He knows what he’s doing," offensive line coach Chris Morgan said Saturday. "The game is kind of slow for him. That’s one of the things we really liked about him. Some guys, when the ball is snapped, they just play. Things look slow for him. He puts his hands where he wants to put them. He’s very controlled in his sets. He’s got good tempo. He does some really nice things.”

The Bears want Wright to spend the next six weeks diving into the playbook and getting acclimated to the verbiage of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's attack. Wright comes from a no-huddle offense at Tennessee, so being able to digest, understand, and retain multiple play calls in the huddle is his first task. He has to learn how the Bears fit blocks and how they run the play-pass, naked, and dropback game.

That's a lot to put on a rookie's plate, but once Wright has lived in the playbook and the classroom, the Bears are confident he'll be ready to roll for Week 1.

"I just think it’s unique for someone that big to be able to bend and be that athletic and as explosive as he is," Getsy said of Wright. "I think that’s just hard to come around guys that are that big, that long, with the length is unbelievable. And the power is unbelievable. And to have that athleticism to go with it, too, was all really cool."

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-- Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson shined on Day 1 of minicamp, using his physicality to get the best of speedy wide receiver Tyler Scott.

Stevenson has impressed the Bears' coaching staff so far. The plan is for Stevenson to spend all his time on working at outside corner and not spend time splitting duties as Kyler Gordon did last season.

"He's done a good job of learning the defense, it's been quick for him," cornerbacks coach Jon Hoke said. "He's done a good job of trying to understand the concepts we teach. We kind of knew his skill set and he's proven to have that, really excited about that. His length is big, he showed it today when he was in a position to do some things. Really, really excited about him. really excited about how in two days he's kind of figured out some of the concepts we try to teach and understand those and then just the new techniques we are trying to do."


-- On Saturday, Morgan confirmed that Teven Jenkins is now working at left guard after the free-agent acquisition of right guard Nate Davis.

"Teven’s got experience on the left, from college, from being here," Morgan said. "So for a guy that’s been on both sides before, and a guy like Teven that’s smart, talented, he’s excited about it. And it hasn’t been that big of an adjustment for him now. He’s still working. He’s … perfect our craft over there. But he’s excited about it."

-- Wide receiver Darnell Mooney is still rehabbing from his season-ending ankle surgery in November. He hasn't been cleared to return to practice yet, but remains on track.

"He’s great with his rehab. He’s great," wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. "He’s running right now. He’s doing well. I told him Rome wasn’t built in a day, so continue to work, listen to the trainers and the doctors because they’re the experts in that field. When you get on the field, I’m the expert in telling you how to run routes but I can’t tell you how to work your injury and work your rehab. So listen to those people. When you’re ready to go, they’ll put you out here and we’ll get ready to go."


-- Fourth-round rookie running back Roschon Johnson has hit the ground running on offense, special teams, and in the meeting rooms. His arrival means the Bears potentially have three viable starting running backs. Getsy believes that competition will work itself out.

"I would say the vision isn’t necessarily set yet," Getsy said of the running back rotation. "But I think it’s a really cool and unique opportunity for a lot of guys who have a lot of experience. I think the competition in that room is going to be real. So we’re going to get to see the best come out of each one of those guys."

-- Second-year left tackle Braxton Jones vowed to spend his first NFL offseason getting stronger against the bull rush. With the Bears drafting Wright to presumably play on the right side, Jones will benefit from having another season at the spot he manned in all 17 games last season.

“I think anytime you can stay somewhere and perfect your craft and bank more reps, yeah, it obviously helps," Morgan said of Jones staying at left tackle. "It helps a lot. Is it easy to go from right to left? No it’s not easy. Can it be done? Yeah certain people can do it. Braxton did a good job last year, and the way things worked, he’s the left tackle going into camp to compete. It benefits him greatly to stay over there and continue to work on the left side. The stance, the set, the calls, his eyes. All of it.”

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