SEATTLE — Kyler Gordon put his right foot at the 17 yard line, trying for all the world not to look excited.
The Bears had told their rookie cornerback to blitz from the offense’s right slot on the first play of the Seahawks’ second drive Thursday night. Even in a normal scenario, Gordon has the eager feet of a former dancer. Combine that with the emotion of Thursday night, though, and he was sure everyone could see right through him.
The Bears’ second-round pick was playing his first pro game — and doing it a half-hour from where he grew up and a few minutes from his college home. the University of Washington.
“I’m more of a super-twitchy dude,” the Bears’ rookie cornerback said late Thursday night. “When you get a twitch and adrenaline, I’m double-time on that.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ My feet were firing –but I just had to calm myself down.”
He blitzed from the offense’s right slot at the snap, fell for the play-action fake left, stopped and chased quarterback Geno Smith down the right flank. Smith threw the ball away before reaching the sideline.
“You just gotta hold your water, not be so jumpy about it,” Gordon said. “Everybody loves to blitz. I love to blitz.”
That’s one reason that Gordon is certain to start the season as the Bears’ nickelback, a position he played exclusively over 18 snaps Thursday.
The position is perhaps the most important in Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme. In four years with the Colts, he developed nickelback Kenny Moore into the best in the league; his 12 interceptions during that span is more than any other player who covered the slot.
Gordon’s place of honor was secured just a few days into training camp, when the Bears moved him to the position coordinator Alan Williams considers the toughest on the field.
He got hurt shortly thereafter, missing six practices and the team’s preseason opener. Despite missing time during both the offseason program and training camp, he looked comfortable playing coverage on 11 dropbacks against the Seahawks, giving up one catch for 12 yards on two targets.
He whiffed on a tackle on Travis Homer’s 33-yard run early in the second quarter. Later, on a third-and-20 screen pass, Gordon was the second defender to the ball, throwing a “Peanut punch.” Tight end Colby Parkinson eventually fumbled at the bottom of a pile of Bears, though the Seahawks recovered the ball.
Eberflus said after the game that Gordon would play some snaps at outside cornerback during the season, opposite Jaylon Johnson. But it’s clear the first pick of the Ryan Poles era is the starting slot cornerback.
“We really like him on the inside,” Eberflus said.
Before the game, Eberflus talked to Gordon about making his debut in front of family and friends at Lumen Field.
“Have fun, go out there and be yourself, and that’s going to be good enough,” he told him. “He’s always on point there.”
When Gordon bowed his head for the national anthem Thursday night, he thought back to how he’d do the same thing in middle school, then high school, then college.
“It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life,” he said. “I love this stuff.”
But it wasn’t just any other game. That was clear when Gordon sprinted out of the locker room just minutes after the Bears had returned to it at the final gun. He’d seen his family on the field, but there was a group of friends waiting for him in the stands that he had to say hello to.
“It’s just home,” he said. “It’s what I’m all familiar with. To be able to do what I love here for the first time ever, it’s special.”