Tag Archives: Zacch Pickens

Bears Urged to Trade for ‘Stalwart’ D-Lineman With Ties to Coaching Staff

The Chicago Bears underwent a major facelift on both sides of the ball this offseason but some holes remain. It can be tough to fill most needs in on summer, let alone all the needs Chicago had.

Still, with a couple of months to go until training camps open up around the NFL, there is time for more tweaks to what should already be a vastly-improved group over last year’s 3-13 squad, and they could land one who is familiar with head coach Matt Eberflus.

Defensive ‘Stalwart’ Floated as Potential Bears Trade Target

“The Bears spent a ton of money to get new blood at inside linebacker…But they can only do so much if they don’t have tackles in front of them who hold up at the point of attack and keep them clean,” wrote Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report on May 31. “Making a trade for Grover Stewart would reunite the veteran with Eberflus while giving the Bears a reliable interior defender.”

Stewart, 29, spent four seasons under Eberflus in Indianapolis. He is heading into the final year of a three-year, $30.7 million contract and, as Ballentine notes, will be taking the field for a coaching staff with zero ties to him.

It is not as though he is a non-factor, however.

He is a stalwart against the run, racking up nine tackles for a loss and 70 combined tackles with the Colts last season,” Ballentine writes, adding Stewart “would offer some help in the pass rush department, too. Last season, he had four sacks and 14 pressures, per Sports Info Solutions.”

What’s more, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Steward has appeared in every game in each of the last four seasons including starting all 50 games over the past three seasons. Neither of the Bears’ projected starters – Justin Jones and Andrew Billings – have shown that kind of durability, though each offers something different than what Stewart brings.

While he could slot in alongside either Billing or Jones on the interior, their presence is just one reason why the Bears might hold off on pursuing the soon-to-be free agent.

Bears Rookies Have Impressed

The other big reason the Bears might be hesitant to fork over draft capital for a player who will turn 30 years old early in the season – which is already against the ethos of general manager Ryan Poles – is the work they did this year in the 2023 NFL Draft.

A class that included three interior linemen – Gervon Dexter Sr., Zacch Pickens, and Travis Bell – has seen that trio generate plenty of buzz. First, it was with their personalities and anecdotes during the pre and post-draft processes. Now, the youngsters have gotten a chance to show what they can do on the football field, albeit in sweats without pads.

Of course, a Bears defense that ranked 27th in yards per carry and 32nd in rushing touchdowns allowed needs all the help it can get.

Bears Need More Help at EDGE than DT

This roster was bereft of talent last season. But, despite their actions in the draft and free agency, Jones was one of the unit’s few bright spots. It will be interesting to see if he has another level to his game with better pieces around him at almost every level.

The Bears have not, however, added anyone of significance at EDGE rusher, a bit of a concern with the defense generating just 20 sacks last season.

They do have incumbents Trevis Gipson and Domonique Robinson, both of whom have a lot to prove. And they added Rasheem Greene and DeMarcus Walker in free agency but both of them are more tweeners than pure pass rushers, though Walker did record 7.0 sacks last season for the Tennessee Titans and Green notched 6.5 sacks for the Houston Texans in 2021.

Bears DC Sets Record Straight on Roster, Name-Drops Veteran

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.

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.

Bears’ New Playmaker Sends Strong Message to Justin Fields

With the No. 133 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles selected Tyler Scott, a wide receiver from the University of Cincinnati.

Bears Rookie WR Tyler Scott Sends Message to Justin Fields

Scott took to social media to his brand new quarterback, Justin Fields.

“Justin’s going to like throwing to him deep,” said Bears Midwest scout Ryan Cavanaugh, per Adam Jahns of The Athletic. “His most exciting trait is his big-play ability down the field.”

Scott – listed at 5-foot-10 and 177 pounds – has drawn comparisons to several notable current NFL wideouts. The first and most prominent is Seattle Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett. They have a similar build, short-area burst, and long speed.

Another is former Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys pass-catcher T.Y. Hilton with whom Bears head coach Matt Eberflus is very familiar.

“While the comparison to T.Y. Hilton might raise some eyebrows, Scott is a similar player in body type, speed and versatility,” writes NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlien. “With just two seasons of starting experience at receiver, his route running and ball skills are almost certain to continue to improve and become less of an issue for him in the future. He has the speed and shiftiness to uncover on all three levels. Also, he offers jet sweep and receiver screen value. A smallish frame and lack of hand strength are likely to continue to plague him on contested catches, though. Scott is an ascending talent whose versatility and playmaking talent create an easily projectable upside as a good starting slot receiver early in his career.”

The final comparison is Bears receiver Darnell Mooney, a former late-round pick himself.

Mooney’s 2022 season ended prematurely following an ankle injury that required surgery. He finished the season with 493 yards on 40 receptions with two touchdowns. He is just one year removed from his first 1000-yard season, however; notable as he heads into the final year of his contract.

Scott recorded 899 yards and nine scores on 54 grabs in his final season with the Bearcats and caught 14 touchdowns over his final two seasons.

Bijan Robinson Praises Roschon Johnson

Scott was not the only Day 3 pick that comes with lofty praise. Texas running back Roshcon Johnson had the tough luck of being stuck behind No. 8 overall pick Bijan Robinson following his freshman season after converting from quarterback.

But Robinson would be the first to tell you the kind of player his understudy is.

“Roschon is the best teammate, first of all, I’ve ever had,” Robinson said in a video shared by Greg Braggs of CHGO Bears. “Obviously he’s a running back. But I think that he brings out so much in a player and a team just how he goes about being a leader to not just his teammate but everybody in the community. And I think that who he is as a person and what he does on the football field is, to me, I don’t think that it’s overlooked. Because he shows his presence, and he makes his presence felt. But, man, Roschon is the guy. I think that he’s the other great running back in this class. And I don’t think that people should overlook the talent that he has and the skill set that brings because I think he’s just as good as anybody. And I think just his toughness and his heart is what makes him stand out over everybody.”

Johnson ran the ball at least 80 times, tallied over 400 yards, and scored five touchdowns on the ground in each of his four seasons in Austin.

He has also flashed his hands with double-digit receptions in three of his four years.

“He fits everything Ryan and Matt are trying to accomplish,” Bears Southwest area scout John Syty said per Jahns. “He’s a HITS principle guy. He just emulates everything we want a Chicago Bear to be. … The ‘it’ factor about this kid is special.”

Jaquan Brisker Invokes Aaron Rodgers Over Bears’ Draft

Second-year Bears safety Jaquan Brisker had an active weekend. He showed support for his many former Penn State teammates as they begin the transition to the NFL.

He also showed his affinity for his team’s choices, as any good teammate would.

Some questioned the Bears passing on Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter only to double up on defensive tackles with Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens in the second and third rounds. They also took offensive lineman Darnell Wright No. 10 overall, six spots higher than the consensus mocks projected him to.

“We in the trenches,” Brisker tweeted with a familiar tag. “RELAX!”

Bears GM Ryan Poles Sends Clear Message With Day 2 NFL Draft Picks

In two days, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles has fortified the trenches.

On the first day of the 2023 NFL Draft, he selected University of Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright with the No. 10 overall pick.

For his follow-up, Pace turned back to the SEC for two more picks with defensive linemen Gervon Dexter Sr from the University of Florida and Zacch Pickens of South Carolina and remained in the southern region of the country to get the third in standout cornerback Tyrique Stevenson out of the University of Miami.

Three of the four players are seniors and the other is a redshirt junior. All of them have plenty of experience with no fewer than 36 starts (Dexter) in their respective collegiate careers – being battle-tested is key with all three potentially stepping into starting roles.

They are also explosive athletes.

Ryan Poles Rebuilds Trenches, Stacks Secondary for Bears on Day 2 of NFL Draft

Rd. 2 Pick No. 53
Gervon Dexter Sr. – DL – Florida
6-foot-6 | 310 lbs

Dexter recorded just 4.5 sacks over his final two seasons down in Gainesville but did tally over 100 total tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss. He also recorded two fumbles and even snagged an interception in that span. A former basketball player, he is only scratching the surface of what he can – and what the Bears need him to – do.

“Good run defender who can eat up space and plug gaps and hard to move with one-on-one blocks,” said his former assistant coach at Florida, Luis Mcleod, per Chicago sports reporter Daniel Greenberg on April 28. “He has been working very hard on his pass rush.”

Rd. 2 Pick No. 56
Tyrique Stevenson – CB – Miami
6-foot | 198 lbs

For the second year in a row, the Bears took a cornerback that we had mocked to them – and in the same round, no less. But Tyrique Stevenson is a different style of player than last year’s No. 39 overall pick, Kyler Gordon. He is built more like fourth-year corner Jaylon Johnson – who just happens to be heading into the final year of his contract – and figures to contend on the outside, allowing the Bears to put Gordon back in the slot.

Chicago traded the Nos. 61 and 135 picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars to jump up and take him.

There could be some concern with the lack of takeaways meaning poor ball skills. But he recorded seven pass deflections last season and 11 over his final two seasons and is otherwise solid.

“The Chicago Bears are getting a physical press corner in Tyrique Stevenson, who was one of the most impressive defenders at this year’s Senior Bowl,” tweeted Luke Chaney of The Miami Hurricane.

The Bears’ passing defense ranked 17th in yards and 10th in touchdowns allowed last season.

But that is largely because teams ran the ball so easily – they were still 32nd in net yards per attempt.

Rd. 3 Pick No. 64
Zacch Pickens – DL – South Carolina
6-foot–4 | 291lbs

Knowing how brutal his run defense and pass rush – 31st in pressure rate and 32nd in sacks – last year, Poles went right back to the defensive line with South Carolina’s Zacch Pickens who spoke about his versatility saying he can play, “Wherever the team needs me,” per Zach Pearson of Bear Report.

“If I do everything right and I know I will, I can be one of the greats,” Pickens said, per Greenberg. “I’m not holding that back. I’m so for real. If I check all of the boxes and when I do, I promise I’m going to be the best defensive interior tackle.”

Pickens recorded 6.5 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss this past season, recovering one fumble, and one pass deflection.

Ryan Poles, Bears’ Day 2 Haul Leaves Glaring Hole

Poles certainly seemed to be targeting a certain type of player in this draft and it was not solely based on experience and durability.

Stevenson would be the only exception.

That would still seem to leave a need for an EDGE presence, though the Bears watched two separate runs on the position and went in different directions. As has been the case for much of this cycle, though, there figure to be any number of players available when the Bears next come on the clock at No. 104.

At that point, however, you’re targeting depth and would have to be fortunate to uncover an impact player. There are other avenues – free agency and/or possibly even a trade – to address the issue and should likely be explored even if the Bears draft someone.