Even as the feeling that the Bears should have used at least one of their two second-round picks on a wide receiver lingers, the two players they picked have tremendous potential as they begin their careers together in the secondary.
Cornerback Kyler Gordon (No. 39 overall) and safety Jaquan Brisker (No. 48) got together this week for the first time and dreamed of their future. This could be an essential partnership as coach Matt Eberflus works to establish his defense.
“As we build our relationship, I think it’ll definitely benefit us,” Gordon said of Brisker. “We definitely talk about getting the playbook and pushing each other along and stuff, so I think it’ll be good for us. I’m happy I’ve got him on my side.”
Bears fans could eventually see it that way, too,and let go of thedisappointment thatgeneral manager Ryan Poles didn’t use one of those picks on a high-flying wide receiver.
The priorities in the modern NFL are to pass and stop the pass. Teams with great quarterbacks are almost always good. Teams that can thwart those quarterbacks also like their chances.
And the secondary that Eberflus and Poles inherited was alarming.
Few defenses were easier to throw on than the Bears last season. Despite being near the top of the NFL in sacks, the Bears allowed a league-worst 103.3 passer rating and gave up the third-most touchdown passes at 31. Jaylon Johnson was the only cornerback among the regulars to hold quarterbacks below 65% completions when they threw his way.
But Gordon and Brisker are eager to correct that. And quite a few factors stack in their favor as they begin.
Both are widely considered exceptional talents, and there’s clearly an expectation for them to be Week 1 starters. Poles disregarded Gordon at points during his pre-draft prep because he thought it was simply unrealistic to think he’d be available that late, and he thought Brisker’s aggressive, hard-hitting style embodied everything he intends this team to be.
They’ll also benefit from the chemistry they’ve already started forming, and it’s significant that the first NFL defense they’ll learn is Eberflus’. Everything they’ll know about playing defense at this level, they’ll learn from him and defensive coordinator Alan Williams.
“They’re starting at the floor and working their way up,” Eberflus said. “Those guys will have that special bond with each other and they’re going to learn it as they go. They’re very intelligent and they’re going to work together. That’s going to be exciting to watch.”
If they’re good quickly, Gordon and Brisker could flip the secondary from a total liability to the strongest part of the Bears’ defense.
One of the best assets Eberflus saw when he walked in the door was Johnson, a superb parting gift left by Ryan Pace. And if this staff can get former all-pro safety Eddie Jackson to buy in, that secondary will start to look scary.
And if Jackson’s unwilling or unable to meet Eberflus’ demands, they’ll move forward molding Brisker into a star.
“The hitting is there,” Eberflus gushed. “The old terms that a lot of my mentors used to use is quickness, instincts and striking ability, and that’s what he has… What a positive energy guy, too, and you can really feel the light coming out of him.”
The Bears badly need some rays of light after the last three seasons.
It’s better for Gordon and Brisker that they missed all of that. Instead, their arrival coincides with the reset. So they’re learning, but so is everyone else. Fresh faces for a fresh start.
“It’s a great opportunity — a new staff, a lot of new people,” Brisker said. “Everybody wants to change this around, and that’s what they brought me here to [do]. It fits right.”