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Training Camp Report

Rookies Gordon, Brisker display ball-hawking skills

Bears rookie defensive backs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker
Bears rookie defensive backs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker

The "T" in the "HITS" principle that coach Matt Eberflus is instilling in the Bears represents being fanatical about generating takeaways.

That core belief was visible during Friday's practice as top draft picks Kyler Gordon, a cornerback from Washington, and Jaquan Brisker, a safety from Penn State, both registered impressive interceptions.

Gordon picked off a pass that deflected off a receiver's hands on the first snap of team drills. Moments later, Brisker jumped a route and intercepted a pass intended for tight end Cole Kmet.

"Once he got the first one, I was like, 'I've got to get one now,'" Brisker said. "There's definitely a competition between everybody in the room with the corners and safeties and linebackers. I'm definitely trying to be the takeaway king."

The Bears were back on the fields at Halas Hall on Friday for the second public practice of Enjoy Illinois Training Camp.

Since joining the Bears, the two rookies have shown some of the same skills they displayed in college. On one play during an offseason practice, Gordon blanketed a receiver, stopped on a dime, turned around and leaped high to intercept a pass. On another day, Brisker punched the ball loose from a receiver twice on the same play (the receiver recovered the first fumble).

"Ball hawks; that's what they are, that's why we brought them here," said coach Matt Eberflus. "A person doesn't change from college. If they have ball skills in college, they still have it. We enhance them by being fanatical and us practicing the way we practice and the drills we do that we've done forever and the new ones that we're incorporating now. We'll enhance that skill. But it's got to be a want-to."

With the Colts from 2018-21, Eberflus coordinated a defense that ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in takeaways in all four of his seasons. Last year Indianapolis finished second with 33 takeaways. The Bears, meanwhile, tied for 26th with 16 takeaways.

Eberflus wants the Bears to focus on creating turnovers like former cornerback Charles Tillman did throughout his career. Employing a technique that was dubbed the "Peanut Punch," Tillman forced 42 fumbles during 12 seasons with the Bears from 2003-14.

Eberflus welcomed Tillman to Halas Hall to speak to the team's rookies during rookie minicamp in May.

"It's got to be like Peanut, when he was here he's talking to those guys about how to punch it out and the details of that, and to me, that's exactly what they're doing," Eberflus said. "They're taking that to the next level. You play like you practice, so keep practicing this way, keep doing it, we'll do it in a game."

Gordon and Brisker have both impressed coaches and teammates while working with the No. 1 defense in practice.

"[Gordon] is just a freak athlete," said veteran safety Eddie Jackson. "Some of the plays he makes, it's not even his man. He's coming off his man, making plays on the ball. Just seeing how very instinctive he is. He's smart. He's willing to learn. He talks less, takes everything in. When you have a guy like that, you know he's going to be special."

"Some guys are fast, but they don't know how to control the body to make the plays," Eberflus said. "[Brisker] has that great body control, and you can see that adjusting to the ball in the air to make an interception, adjusting to the alley when the runner changes his angle to slow down, speed up and to maintain the inside-out angle to run the alley and make the hit. So, he's done a lot of those things. You can see it. It's evident on tape that he has it."

The two rookie defensive backs clearly feed off each other.

"I enjoy playing next to him," Gordon said of Brisker. "He's a big, physical dude, and we talk about being physical all the time. You definitely see him out there swinging his hands and always punching at the ball. It's just nice to know someone is playing with the same physicality that I like to play with. His energy will bounce off of me and make me raise my energy, so I enjoy playing with him a lot."

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