An otherwise innocuous comment from Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams might have just cracked the code on the team’s strategy in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Bears DC Name-Drops Veteran: ‘We Have a 3-Technique’
“We have a 3-technique, right, so that’s Justin [Jones]” Williams told media after the first rookie minicamp practice on May 5 via the team’s official YouTube channel. “Justin will be in there. But…every great defensive line in the NFL, they have a wave of guys that go in and out. Every guy cannot play uh 60-65 plays. So we need a good rotation of defensive linemen. So Justin’s a 3, and then whoever’s next will come in and they’ll help Justin out. And then we’ll have a wave of guys that are in and out, and if we’re going to be great that’s what we’re going to need to have. And so we’re working towards that.”
The Bears signed Jones, 26, to a two-year, $12 million contract after their initial major free agent splash – defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi – failed his physical. Ogunjobi eventually landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers while Jones went on to finish second on the Bears in sacks and fifth in pass deflections.
Hello Justin Jones! #Bears pic.twitter.com/vreB4VHq1y
— Just🥶Acy🥶Dawg™️ (@Just_Acy) November 13, 2022
A 6-foot-3, 309-pounder, Jones moves well and was often one of the few noticeable parts along a beleaguered front seven.
Rookies Ready to Rock
The Bears went into the 2023 NFL seemingly with a clear-cut need for a defensive tackle that could shoot the gaps and collapse the pocket. That led to speculation that they could select Georgia’s Jalen Carter – who went to the Philadelphia Eagles after they traded up with the Bears to get him – but it sounds like they were not as high on him as those projections thought.
They did take a pair of defensive tackles, using a second-round pick on Florida lineman Gervon Dexter Sr. and a third-rounder on Zacch Pickens out of South Carolina.
Dexter spoke about his role going from a gap-filler to an attacking defender with the Bears.
He attributed concerns about his potentially slow get-off to his responsibilities for the Gators before saying he relishes the opportunity to get vertical and into the offensive backfield.
Pickens’ introductory press conference almost went in the opposite direction.
After weighing in at the combine at 291 pounds, he said he plans to play closer to his college playing weight of 305 pounds. Pickens said he dropped the weight to test faster at the combine where he drew raves about his quickness.
The 6-foot-4 Pickens also shed some light on his and Davis’ budding bromance.
“When we was flying places, we was always together,” Pickens said. “So I was like, ‘I feel like we’re going to be together’. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the Bears draft him, then they draft me. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna have fun with this. And I texted him, I was like, ‘We just got to take over, do our stuff right, and we could easily be the dynamic duo.”
A Favorite of Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus
The Bears also drafted Kennesaw State’s Travis Bell – whom both general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus are fond of – in the seventh round as they continued the roster overhaul that began last offseason.
Eberflus did not wax as poetically as Poles. But he also name-dropped Bell among his early favorites from the class which featured plenty of athleticism and experience.