Bears News: Washington says defense is making Williams “battle-tested” during OTAs

Bears News: Washington says defense is making Williams “battle-tested” during OTAs

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - With a new quarterback and new receivers, the defense will undoubtedly be relied on to provide stability to the Bears, particularly in the first part of the season, since the defense has not changed much from the end of last season to now.

The biggest change is the new defensive coordinator, Eric Washington, who walked into one of the best defenses in the league. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson received his contract to keep him around, although seasoned safety Eddie Jackson was let go. The Bears brought in safety Kevin Byard to fill that void. With all of the players on Chicago’s defense, the group has a bit of an edge that Washington is excited about.

“We want to play with an edge. We want to compete with an edge,” Washington said. “We want to compete like we’re the best unit on the field and that’s something that you have to back up with how you play, how you study, how you invest and I just really like the spirit. I like the attitude out there, even in the format that we’re working against and I just feel really good about where we are.”

Byard spent over seven years with the Tennessee Titans before being traded mid-season to the Philadelphia Eagles last year. He is a two-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro, receiving both of those honors in 2017 and 2021. Back in 2017, he led the league in interceptions with eight and in 2021, he garnered his first pick-six. Washington sees a lot of value in Byard’s presence, particularly his ability to communicate.

“His ability to communicate very, very quickly and especially as we need to make adjustments before the ball is snapped and I just like him,” Washington said. “He’s got a great personality. He’s done a lot of things in his career, but he’s a humble, humble person and very receptive, very open. So, that’s the kind of guy you want to be around.”

Washington has expressed his high hopes for defensive lineman Gervon Dexter who made noticeable strides at the end of last season. Confidence is essential for any football player and Washington said the biggest thing he noticed with Dexter is how his confidence is growing. His improvements in his technique are also noteworthy.

“Just watching the footwork, some of those small but very, very important details with him, watching his stands, watching his pad level. He’s a big, tall guy and so it’s in his best interest to play with great pad level and so, just watching those things, watching him have to adjust what he’s doing as the parts are moving and receive communication and I’m going to tell you the biggest thing is just how assertive he is and you can tell that there’s a growing confidence,” Washington said. “He’s assertive, he believes that he belongs in the lineup and he believes that he can be a major factor.”

So far in the organized team activities (OTAs), the defense is performing better overall than the offense. That is to be expected given all the changes on the offense, including the addition of rookie quarterback Caleb Williams. Going against such a difficult defense, however, is something that Washington feels will benefit Williams even if his performance in the OTAs is not great because he is learning to be battle-tested.

“We’d like to think that would be a byproduct of his growth and development, just having to go against some of the exceptional, seasoned players that we have on the line of scrimmage and in our back seven,” Washington said. “We all have a vested interest in wanting to see that young man grow and to become battle-tested and to be ready on day one and we’re going to give him everything we have everyday.”

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