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Dexter adapting quickly to Bears' defensive system

Bears rookie defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Sr.
Bears rookie defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Sr.

Adjusting to a different type of defense than the one he played in at Florida, rookie defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. is making a smooth transition with the Bears.

"He's definitely taken a lot of steps forward, in the pass rush and the run game too," said defensive line coach Travis Smith. "It's a different system that he's coming from, but he's acclimated quick. Now the main thing is he's got to be consistent."

After being asked to read and react in Florida's two-gap scheme, Dexter is being indoctrinated into a Bears defense that requires tackles to penetrate and disrupt by firing off the ball while still maintaining gap integrity and discipline. 

"Some of the skillsets that I wasn't able to [show] in college, I kind of already was gifted with," Dexter said. "I wanted to do some of the things that I get to do here now in college, but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to. 

"It was an easier transition for me just because I always wanted to get down in that stance and just get to go. I always wanted to be able to just rush the passer and utilize and showcase my talents. That's some of the things I get to do now, and I think it's going to be good for me."

Dexter believes that he's made "huge progress" since the start of training camp and is driven to continue to improve in all areas—whether that's defending the run, honing his pass rush skills or gaining a better grasp of the playbook. 

The 6-6, 312-pounder is so committed to his craft that he watches extra film, works on getting out of his stance before practice and picks the brains of veteran teammates. 

"The most impressive thing right now is his disposition," Smith said, "the way he wants to work, the way he is very focused on improving every day. It's extremely important to him and he loves it. That's one thing you can't teach; someone who loves football. They either love it or they don't, so that's something that you're excited about. No matter what happens through the adversity and through the success, [he's] always going to take steps to try to improve."

Dexter has attracted the attention of veteran teammates on both sides of the ball. 

"As a young guy, the way he uses his hands and uses the offensive lineman's leverage against him, he's really kind of figured it out pretty well so far," said center Cody Whitehair. "I'm really excited to see what he does in the preseason games and then going into the [regular] season too." 

Veteran defensive tackle Justin Jones likes how Dexter has been able to comprehend the nuances of the game that are discussed in their position meetings, such as making pre-snap reads and understanding the intricacies of offensive formations like line splits and running back depth.

"We talk about all sorts of things that the average rookie probably wouldn't recognize, but he's not your average rookie, in my opinion," Jones said. "I feel like he's able to get all that knowledge and be able to show it on the field." 

The first time that Dexter will have a chance to show what he can do on an NFL field comes Saturday when the Bears host the Titans in their preseason opener. 

The 21-year-old insists that he isn't nervous or anxious about making his pro debut. 

"Naw, I'm ready," Dexter said. "I'm ready to compete. I'm not looking at it as a preseason game. It's my first NFL game. I'm prepared for it. I'm going to prepare for it. I'm just ready to compete. I'm going to showcase my talents." 

Based on how he's performed in training camp, Dexter is confident that he'll be able to contribute this season as a rookie—and he isn't the only one who feels that way. 

"He looks the part, and he's using that frame that he has to his advantage," Whitehair said. "He's very powerful, very quick off the ball. I think he's going to have a good year, for sure."