Bears Developing Secondary Helping Trim Ryan Poles’ Long Offseason To-Do List

It’s easy to look around the NFL and find some undesirable situations to be in this offseason. The mess in Denver, for example, sticks out like a sore thumb as the least envious spot. Still, for as much as we’ve talked about how good of a position the Bears are in — with a quarterback to build around, great draft position, and one of the healthiest amounts of impending cap space in the NFL — Ryan Poles has his work cut out for him in his second offseason as the Bears GM.

Poles has the tall task(s) of (1) building both sides of the line of scrimmage, (2) securing weapons for Justin Fields in the receiving game, (3) deciding what to do with impending free agent David Montgomery and the backfield, and (4) deciding who is and isn’t worthy of a contract extension.

That’s a lot!

One spot on this roster that he can feel good about is the young and developing secondary, one that has taken great strides since adding Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon in last year’s draft. Saturday’s loss to the Bills was just the latest friendly reminder.

We discussed Kyler Gordon already this week. The 2022 second-round pick has taken his lumps at times this year, but he’s looked like a young player starting to figure it out lately. Gordon intercepted Josh Allen on a beautiful read on Saturday and intercepted Jalen Hurts the week prior against the Eagles. That’s interceptions in back-to-back weeks against two Pro Bowl quarterbacks.

“On that play, I was reading the formation, looking across … so really just seeing what I could get,” Gordon said after the game. “Going through in my head, shuffling through different possibilities and calls. One of the possibilities ended up being what I was thinking and getting the under call, looked across the field to see, obviously he wasn’t looking. Just went to go make a play.”

Gordon’s draft-mate, Jaquan Brisker also made his presence felt on Saturday against the Bills, sacking Josh Allen.

Brisker has 86 tackles, four sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and a recovery in his rookie season for the Bears. Factor in the solid rookie season for Brisker, the development of Kyler Gordon in the second half of the season, the existence of Jaylon Johnson as the No. 1 cornerback who is playing his way into a contract extension, and the resurgence of Eddie Jackson this season, and the Bears have more answers than questions in the secondary heading into the offseason.

Just ask Justin Fields, who’s been impressed with the play of the youngsters on the other side of the ball this season: “I mean, I think you just have to look at the positives, like the defense,” said quarterback Justin Fields. “We had a lot of rookies playing out there, and yet they’re still taking the ball away.”

Veteran safety Deandre Houston-Carson is wrapping up his seventh season with the Bears and has played for three Bears head coaches and two front offices. The veteran safety likes what he’s seen from the young Bears secondary.

“For the last three or four weeks, we’ve been playing pretty good football,” Houston-Carson said (via The Athletic). “You could see that the defensive backfield is playing pretty good football. Those guys are playing a lot, obviously gaining a lot of experience, and that’s part of the reason. But all of them are professionals already. … It’s not surprising to me at all that they’re playing well.”

However, Gordon and Brisker weren’t the only rookies playing in the Bears secondary last week against the Bills. They were joined by fellow rookies Josh Blackwell and Jaylon Jones and safety Elijah Hicks, a seventh-round draft pick. That trio, along with Brisker and Gordon, made up the secondary on the drive in which Brisker sacked Josh Allen to help force a three-and-out for the Bills, just one drive after Gordon intercepted Allen.

That group of young defensive backs was a big reason the Bears could take a 10-6 lead over the Bills into the locker room at the half. The Bills, fighting for the top seed in the AFC playoff picture, are preseason Super Bowl favorites, quarterbacked by Josh Allen. Think about it.

Jaylon Jones — an undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss — had two pass defends against the Bills and Josh Blackwell has been solid when called upon in nickel packages and stellar on special teams for the Bears this season.

Indeed there is plenty to be done for Ryan Poles and the Bears before they can hang with the likes of their last two opponents, the Eagles, and Bills. There’s work to be done before they can be considered a playoff hopeful like their next opponent, the Lions, or a division favorite like their Week 18 opponent, the Vikings. But one of the developmental highlights of the season has been within the secondary, which takes one thing off the long to-do list that Poles will be tasked with this spring.

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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