Bears’ ‘Juggernaut’ Talks Passing Knowledge to Rookie Teammate

Bears Knowledge

The Chicago Bears selected three defensive tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft. While they have all flashed the potential that made them attractive targets, the team is still leaning on veterans at the top of the depth chart for their knowledge.

One of those veterans, 28-year-old defensive tackle Andrew Billings, spoke with the media after Monday’s practice about giving the nuances of the pro game to rookie Zacch Pickens.

Pickens, 23, had previously said he has been working strictly at nose tackle – Billings’ position.

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“For Zach as a taller guy, me being a shorter guy, I really have to watch him,” Billings said. “Because I can’t tell him to do what I do because we’re totally different bodies. But for him it’s just whatever we can do to, not fix his technique, [but] change it to give him the best advantage.

Billings – who has earned the nickname “Juggernaut” – is listed at 6-foot-1 and 328 pounds. Pickens checks in at 6-foot-4 and 304 pounds.

Despite those differences, Billings noted that it’s the details for the youngster, Pickens.

“Whether it’s backing off the ball, picking up his off-hand, whatever like that,” Billings continued. “Because all you want to do is just find where he’s comfortable at so he can play with more confidence which I think he’s been doing.”

Taken in the third round of the draft (No. 64 overall), Pickens recorded four tackles (two solo), 1.0 sacks, and recovered a fumble in the preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans.

“It felt good, I’m not gonna lie. Dream come true,” Pickens said after Saturday’s game. “I feel like I can set some expectations for myself. I feel pretty good. I’m gonna stick to my routine, do the same thing I been doing.”

If the early returns are any indication, that is a sound plan.

“He’s getting better every week,” said Billings who signed a one-year contract with the Bears this offseason after stints with the Las Vegas Raiders, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals.

Bears’ Interior Defensive Line

The Bears recorded 8.0 sacks on Sunday with 1.5 coming from the defensive tackle spot and, specifically, Pickens and fellow rookie Travis Bell who said after the game that the feeling of getting to the quarterback was “addicting”.

Billings and fellow starter Justin Jones are still at the top of the depth chart. But the pieces behind them have already flashed some encouraging things. A similar impact in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts will go a long way toward validating the flashes from Week 1.

But Billings’ message is one of simplicity for his young teammates.

“For a rookie, they have to learn their stance, their alignment, their key,” he said. “The next thing for him is just getting knocked back, and I think that simplifies it for you. Once you just start getting knocked back, you don’t have to think too much. He’s just, ‘Alright I’m just the center is my key, I’m gonna take him three yards back.’ Whatever happens after that is football.”