Kyler Gordon's performance on the practice field has earned the Bears' second-year nickel back praise from coaches and a new nickname from teammates.
"The guys have nicknamed him 'Spider-Man' because he is so quick, he is so agile, he is instinctive," said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "He's got Spidey senses. When he makes a play and you go, 'wow, how did he make that,' ding-ding-ding the Spidey senses are going off. All those things—the quickness, the instincts—they've been showing up in a big way."
Entering his second NFL season, Gordon is clearly more comfortable and familiar in the defense than he was as a rookie last season.
"I've seen guys come in and Year 1 they're getting their feet up underneath them," Williams said. "Year 2, they feel more comfortable. They know how to get lined up. They're not just going through memorization. Now they're starting to play football. That's what you're seeing out there."
Gordon is also benefitting from focusing solely on the nickel position instead of splitting time in the slot and outside at cornerback.
"I do believe that just with everything, less is more," Williams said. "When you reduce the amount of things that he has to do in terms of technique assignments, they can't help but get better. I don't know if you remember last year, but he didn't get into that [nickel] spot until this time last year. We didn't rep him there in OTAs. So he's got all those reps banked from the season underneath his belt on top of a little bit less on his plate in terms of being outside. So I would say, yes, it has helped him on top of one more year in the system."
Johnson playing faster at corner
Like Gordon, fourth-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson also figures to benefit from the year of experience he gained playing in the defense.
"Like the other guys, we expect him to anticipate, which he does do," Williams said. "Jaylon is super bright, a super instinctive guy. So now that he knows what the calls are, knows what calls I like in certain situations, now he can anticipate based on not just, 'Hey, this is what Alan said my assignments are, but this is what the offense is doing and this is how I fit into that structure. This one is my play to make.'
"And so now I'm starting to see him anticipate a little bit more and play a little bit faster than he did last year at this point in time."
That was evident in Friday's practice when Johnson sprinted stride-for-stride down the left sideline with Velus Jones Jr. and broke up a long pass intended for the speedy second-year receiver.
Edwards as good as advertised
Veteran linebacker T.J. Edwards has picked up in training camp where he left off in offseason practices, making impact plays at the weakside position. The latest example came late in Friday's workout when he intercepted a pass over the middle.
"Great person, great teammate, instant buy-in, leadership and playmaking ability," Williams said. "We like him at the 'Will' spot. Doing a great job of coming in and assimilating himself into our culture. When you bring a guy into the locker room, that's what you want to see: 'hey, I made the right decision with the person and then the athlete,' and he's been everything as advertised."
A Chicago area native, Edwards signed with the Bears in March after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Eagles. Entering the league with Philadelphia in 2019 as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin, he appeared in 61 games with 47 starts and generated 370 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss, 5.0 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Last season Edwards helped the Eagles win the NFC championship by generating a team-leading 159 tackles. He started all three playoff games, totaling 13 tackles, including six in Philadelphia's Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs.
The Bears were back on the fields at Halas Hall Friday for the second public practice of Enjoy Illinois Training Camp.