'He's going to be a force in this league': Bears rookie Dexter is turning heads in practice
Sacks are not particularly meaningful during spring football practices, but it was still notable last week when Bears rookie Gervon Dexter and veteran defensive end Terrell Lewis met each other at the quarterback. Even if nobody is wearing pads and the defenders can't hit the QB, it's still a good sign for the No. 53-overall draft pick.
Dexter should be a big part of the Bears' plans moving forward on the defensive line. The rookie out of Florida has already been impressing his teammates during the spring practice period, which ended with veteran minicamp last week.
"He's got some really, really strong hands and I think he knows ball," veteran defensive tackles Justin Jones said. "I think he knows he's got a little bit to learn and how to use his size -- you know, like every bit of it -- but he's going to be a force in this league. I really do believe that."
Dexter was one of two defensive tackles taken on day two of the draft this spring. South Carolina's Zacch Pickens went 64th overall with the first pick of the third round, 11 spots after Dexter. Both are promising prospects, but are still works in progress.
The things that impresses most about Dexter is his athleticism. He's not just some big body who the Bears are going to stick in the middle to eat up space. He's 6-foot-6, 312 pounds, and he can move.
Jones is convinced that Dexter could win a foot race against just about anybody on the Bears' roster. Quarterback Justin Fields would probably have something to say about that.
"I haven't seen anything like him in a very long time," Jones said. "I don't want to put anything in a box with him, but the closest person I can see him as is like a leaner Linval Joseph."
Joseph, a second-round pick in 2010, is a two-time Pro Bowler and a longtime Bears nemesis with the Vikings from 2014-19. That's high praise coming from someone who played alongside Joseph when both were with the Chargers.
Fully utilizing Dexter's athletic abilities is the main focus of this spring.
Dexter played in a defensive system at Florida that is much different from the Bears' 4-3 scheme under head coach Matt Eberflus. He totaled 5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss over his three years with the Gators.
Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith said the teaching process with Dexter begins with his stance.
"With him, we're working on just starting with, 'Hey, where's our weight? Is it in our hands? Are our heels down? Are we on the balls of our feet? Are we vertically stepping? Are we read stepping?'" Smith said. "There are different things that he used to do that we are getting out of the habit of."
Smith said he believes in Dexter because he has rare size and athletic traits, and because Dexter loves football.
"I'm eager, I'm a competitor," Dexter said this spring. "I like going up against the best, I think that's what the game of football is all about."
Eberflus reiterated that it's a work in progress for Dexter. Jones and veteran defensive tackle Andrew Billings could wind up being the starting defensive tackles when Week 1 arrives. Even so, Dexter and Pickens should be in the rotation.
Eberflus said the Bears have Dexter doing Pilates to make himself more flexible in his lower body.
"We elongated his stance a little bit to help him do that and we moved him around a little bit," Eberflus said. "He's playing the nose [tackle], he's playing the [3-technique]. What I like most about him is his hustle. Man, he hustles. He's got his track shoes on and he is running out there."
Eberflus, a coach who told his players to bring their track shoes the day he was hired, has to love that.