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So much for making life easier for second-year quarterback Justin Fields.
Having traded away their first-round pick to move up in the draft to land Fields a year ago, the Bears surprisingly prioritized defense with their two second-round picks. General Manager Ryan Poles instead moved to address a deficiency in the secondary, selecting University of Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker with the 39th and 48th picks on Friday night.
In doing so, they bypassed a number of highly regarded wide receivers and offensive linemen who could have helped improve an offense that has been the Bears’ weakness on an annual basis. This speaks to the evaluation of Poles and Matt Eberflus, his head coach who had been the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive coordinator.
The 6-11 Bears were almost as poor on defense as offense last season, even with a heavier investment in payroll. Veterans Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith and the since-traded Khalil Mack helped Chicago rank fourth in the NFL in sacks but its secondary was consistently victimized.
The Bears allowed 7.6 yards per pass attempt, ranking 27th, while allowing 31 passing touchdowns and making just eight interceptions. Given inconsistent play by former All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson, third-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson has been the best player in the secondary.
The Bears landed Johnson in the second round of the 2020 draft, and hope they have landed the same type of players in Gordon and Brisker.
Gordon played alongside first-round pick Trent McDuffie at Washington. He has unusual flexibility and jumping ability, which he developed as much in dance, ballet and kung fu as on the football field.
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Gordon was somewhat overshadowed by McDuffie but was named as an honorable mention All-Pac 12 player the last two years. The Bears’ scouts targeted him early but felt he could be taken before their first pick.
Gordon ran a 4.52 40 at the NFL Combine, which could have caused some times to shy away from him. The Bears were sold.
The Bears had been expected to draft a cornerback early. But it was a surprise that they backed up the Gordon selection by taking Brisker nine picks later.
The belief is that Brisker could step in alongside Jackson early next season, if not in the Bears’ opener. He was a leader of Penn State’s defense last year, earning second-team All-American honors as a fifth-year senior.
Scouts praised Brisker’s physical nature and instincts to find the ball carrier. His versatility is expected to be a plus for the Bears, who can move him close to the line or play him in a conventional spot.
The Bears did add some speed on the first night of the draft. Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones, selected in the third round with the 71st overall pick, ran a 4.31 40 at the Combine. He split his college career between USC and Tennessee, emerging more as a kick returner than a receiver.
Scouts compare him to the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel due to his explosive speed and versatile nature. He offers some interesting options for the Bears’ offense but doesn’t answer the question of who other than Darnell Mooney will catch passes from Fields.