Cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, a 2023 second-round draft pick of the Bears, continuously improved throughout his rookie season and developed into one of the team's top defensive playmakers.
The Miami product started all 16 games he appeared in – missing only the Nov. 27's Monday Night Football matchup in Minnesota with an ankle injury – and played 82% of the defensive snaps this season, the most by a rookie on defense.
As the season progressed, Stevenson showed off his ballhawking skills by totaling four interceptions — tying Jaylon Johnson and Tremaine Edmunds for a team-high — all in the final seven weeks of the season. He also tied Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon for most passes defensed by a rookie with 16, which ranked first on the Bears and fifth in the NFL.
Thanks to his consistent growth and ability to make plays on the ball, ChicagoBears.com has selected Stevenson as the Bears' Rookie of the Year for 2023.
Ahead of the Bears' Week 18 game in Green Bay, Stevenson reflected on what allowed him to progress during his rookie year.
"I think I just really settled down in my game," Stevenson said. "Just going out there understanding that I'm meant to be here and everything happens for a reason and just understanding that I'm on the field for a reason, and when I go out there just play my game and know that the game is going to come to me."
One of Stevenson's top performances came in that regular-season finale against the Packers when he broke up a pass intended for receiver Romeo Doubs to prevent a touchdown and forced a fumble which the Bears recovered. By starting and ending the season against Green Bay, Stevenson was able to see his year come full circle and point to noticeable improvements.
"It was a pretty good rookie year for me," Stevenson said on Jan. 8. "I had my ups and downs. I had my goods and I had my bads. Just to kind of end it off with a bang like that ... gives me confidence to go into this offseason and get myself opportunities and show myself what I need to work on."
Coaches and teammates took notice of Stevenson's potential even back in training camp, highlighting his energy, work ethic and ability to bounce back after a challenge.
"I mean he is making plays all over the field," safety Eddie Jackson said on Aug. 8. "You know he is stepping up to the plate. He's buying in. You know coach [Jon] Hoke is tough on him, but at first he was a little shied away, but now he is locked in. You know he knows it's just tough coaching. It's all love. Just his mindset. Like he wants to go out there. He wants to ball and that is another high energy guy. You know a young guy, he is making plays. You see him fired up. He gets up and makes a play. That's what we need."
Stevenson played his best game on Dec. 31 against the Falcons, recording two interceptions, five tackles and four passes defensed, earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, making him the first Bears player to be named NFC Defensive Player of the Week since Jackson in Week 12 of the 2018 season.
After Stevenson earned the award, coach Matt Eberflus had high praise for his rookie cornerback.
"I like Tyrique for a couple of reasons," Eberflus said. "No. 1 he's an aggressive player, and he tackles well. That's an important aspect, and he's long. He's lean, he's long, he's got good lean mass so he can really tackle well. He can tackle big backs. You can see that. He knocks them back. That's the No. 1 thing I like about him.
"And then the length in the pass game. When you're covering deep routes and side pocket throws, that length matters. Having arms of 32 or 33 [inches] are different than having 28s. So it's important that we acquire guys like that, and he's one of them. But I love his attitude, and I love his demeanor that he brings to the game every week."
Check out the best photos of the season—taken by Bears photographers—featuring the 2023 rookie class.