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Bears hope Dexter, Pickens become dynamic duo

Bears rookie defensive linemen Gervon Dexter Sr. (98) and Zacch Pickens (96)
Bears rookie defensive linemen Gervon Dexter Sr. (98) and Zacch Pickens (96)

"Dexter and Pickens" sounds like it could be a law firm or maybe a country music duo.

But the names actually represent two defensive tackles who are embarking on their NFL journeys together after being selected by the Bears 11 picks apart on Day 2 of the draft.

Last Friday night, Florida's Gervon Dexter Sr. was chosen in the second round at No. 53 and South Carolina's Zacch Pickens was picked in the third at No. 64. A week later, the two SEC products are both participating in the Bears' rookie minicamp.

Interestingly, the two formed a bond even before they became teammates. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Dexter and Pickens visited at least three NFL clubs at the same time and once even ran into each other at an airport while catching separate connecting flights. 

"We were always together," Pickens said, "so I was like, 'I feel like we're going to be together [in the NFL].' Then what do you know, the Bears drafted him, then they drafted me. I was like, 'We're going to have fun with this.' I texted him, 'We've just got to take over, do ourselves right, and we could easily be the dynamic duo."

The Bears see similarities between the 6-6, 310-pound Dexter and the 6-4, 291-pound Pickens. 

"First of all, they're big. Second of all, they're fast," said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "I've been in the room with them for two meetings, and they are super intelligent and attentive. If you look at if someone cares about something, you can tell by the attentiveness in the room. 

"They came in Day 1; they had their iPads. They had their pencil. They had their notebook. And they were taking copious notes. They were taking great notes. And they're quick twitch. There are a lot of really good things to like about both guys." 

Dexter appeared in 36 games with 24 starts over three seasons at Florida, registering 125 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, 5.0 sacks and two interceptions. Last year he started all 13 contests, compiling a career-high 55 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks and one interception.

Dexter arrived at Halas Hall Thursday with the rest of the rookies, six days after he was drafted by the Bears. 

"After getting that call, I was immediately ready to work," he said. "Just being here now has inspired me to get better. It's been great being here, for sure."

Dexter is thrilled to join a Bears defense that asks its tackles to penetrate up the field. 

"That's one of the things I feel like I do best," he said. "That's kind of what I love doing. It's what I wanted to do. It's great for me."

Dexter is eager to prove that deserves an NFL roster spot. 

"I just want to show that I belong here and that I can make a huge impact and that I can disrupt a game," he said. "I'm a competitor. I like going up against the best. I think that's what the game of football is all about, going up against the best. Even for me in high school, I thought making the decision to go to the SEC, I thought that was the best football. I just want to compete; that's the biggest thing for me. I want to show that I can play with the best, and I know that I can."

Pickens appeared in 47 games with 32 starts in four seasons at South Carolina, generating 131 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks. Last year, he was named the team's MVP, most outstanding senior and defensive MVP after starting all 12 games after producing 42 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks.

At T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C., Pickens was voted the South Carolina Gatorade Football Athlete of the Year and the state's Mr. Football as a senior after leading the Yellow Jackets to a 14-1 record and a berth in the 5A state title game.

Pickens told reporters Thursday that he's excited to be a member of such a storied NFL franchise.

"I grew up watching Devin Hester run," Pickens said. "Being a part of that is something special that you really don't get anywhere else, and I'm just glad to be in a great position that I could be a part of something that everybody cares about."

As a rookie, Pickens said that he wants to prove "everything—as far as being a better teammate, a better person and better player." 

"Right now, for rookie minicamp, I'm worrying about everything," he said. "I'm worrying about my body; is it going to be all right? And I'm just telling myself that everything is going to be smooth, not to overthink everything because at the end of the day it's still playing football. We're just out there competing, really." 

Asked about his expectations for Dexter and Pickens, Bears coach Matt Eberflus said: "I want to see movement. I want to see get off. I want to see disruption. 

"We'll be able to see that, the athleticism. 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. Obviously, pass rush up the middle is going to be important. When you have a dominating force inside of there, or when you have two really good players in there, that helps you in a lot of ways. That helps you in your run defense, that helps you in your pass rush right up the middle. So we're enthused by having those guys in there." 

The Bears hope that Dexter and Pickens will be able to be part of a defensive line rotation that also includes veteran tackles Justin Jones and Andrew Billings. 

"Every great defensive line in the NFL, they have a wave of guys that go in and out," Williams said. "Every guy cannot play 60, 65 plays. So we need a good rotation of defensive linemen. Justin's a three [technique] and whoever's next will come in and they'll help Justin out. And then we'll have a wave of guys that will come in and out. If we're going to be great, that's what we're going to need to have, so we're working towards that."