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Bears address defense with all three Day 2 picks

Bears general manager Ryan Poles
Bears general manager Ryan Poles

If Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams was a gymnast, he probably would have been doing cartwheels down the hallway outside his Halas Hall office Friday night.

After drafting Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright with the 10th pick in the first round Thursday night, the Bears spent all three of their Day 2 picks on defense.

They chose Florida defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr.. (No. 53) and Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (No. 56) in the second round before selecting South Carolina defensive tackle Zacch Pickens (No. 64) in the third round.

"Really happy with the work we put in today," Poles said. "We continue to get better; bigger, stronger, faster. The cool thing is when the board plays out where best available also hits some of our needs. That always gets you excited because it pairs up really well and you feel really good about it."

In Dexter and Pickens, the Bears added a pair of hybrid linemen who both can play the nose tackle and three-technique positions.

"We're looking for guys who are big, long and can run and are interchangeable, nose, three-technique," Poles said. "You get kind of chipped up through the season, so you want guys that can fit in different spots. Both of these guys have the ability to do that, so it allows us to be versatile and deep the entire season."

Improving the defense has been one of Poles' top priorities this offseason. In free agency, the Bears signed linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, defensive end DeMarcus Walker and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.

"We want to take a big step there," Poles said. "We've done that in free agency and then we've done that in the draft, too. So we get a corner who can come in and compete for a spot on the outside, and then you get those big guys inside to really be in the heavy rotation with Billings and Justin [Jones], who will be really good leaders for those guys too, be able to show them the way.

"In this league, in terms of the defensive line, you've got to have really two waves. So we've been able to start that inside. They're multipliers. They punch the pocket. They dent the pocket. That makes it a shorter edge for the outside guys. In the run game, they're tougher to move. That allows your linebackers to flow and run even better. They multiply and help everybody."

The cool thing is when the board plays out where best available also hits some of our needs. That always gets you excited because it pairs up really well and you feel really good about it.” Bears GM Ryan Poles

Dexter appeared in 36 games with 24 starts the last three seasons at Florida, registering 125 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, 5.0 sacks and two interceptions. Last year the 6-6, 312-pounder started all 13 contests, compiling a career-high 55 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks and one interception.

Poles described Dexter as a "big, strong guy" with "tons of talent in that body" who is "extremely athletic" and "moves really well." The Bears general manager is confident that Dexter—who didn't play football until his final two years in high school—will flourish once he gains more experience. 

"If you go all the way back to his freshman year [at Florida], he was raw," Poles said. "He was a basketball player that started playing football just a couple years ago. If you go back and watch his freshman tape, he's out there just kind of throwing people around. He doesn't really feel pressure yet and understand block recognition and all that. And then the next year it gets even better in terms of the feel, and then [last] year, it got even better."

Stevenson is a physical cornerback who played the last two seasons at Miami after spending two years at Georgia. The Bears traded up five spots to take him, sending a fifth-round pick to the Jaguars.

"Didn't feel really comfortable with him making it to us," Poles said, "so we got a little bit aggressive, went up and grabbed him." 

Poles described the 6-foot, 214-pounder as a "big, physical corner" who "will strike you" and possesses "good ball skills."

"What stands out about him in coverage, he has a ton of poise," Poles said. "[He] really stays in control through all of his movements and especially when the ball's in the air. So, we're excited about him." 

On ESPN's draft broadcast, analyst Louis Riddick described Stevenson as "super, super, super aggressive," adding: "This guy will absolutely knock you out. This is a Chicago Bear. This is the kind of guy that Matt Eberflus is going to love."

Pickens played in 47 games with 32 starts in four seasons at South Carolina, registering 131 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks. Last year, the 6-4, 305-pounder was named the Gamecocks' Most Outstanding Senior, team MVP and defensive MVP after producing 42 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks.

"Zacch Pickens was another guy that we had really close to Dexter and he was still there for us," Poles said. "So [it was] another opportunity to add a big interior player who has length [and is a] very good athlete. 

"[Defensive tackle] is one space we wanted to get better. We want to be more stout. But at the same time in this defense, you've got to be able to run, and both those guys can do that. So [we] made some good progress today."

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