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Bears need to make Gervon Dexter Sr. a starter right now

The sooner the Bears commit to giving Gervon Dexter Sr. a lion’s share of snaps up front, the better.

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Washington Commanders Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last week’s win over the Washington Commanders might have marked a significant moment in the Chicago Bears’ outlook for the next few games. Specifically, one of their young players and potential building blocks broke out in a major way to help the Bears break their 14-game winning streak.

That would be rookie defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr., who dominated the Commanders’ offensive line with six pressures in 33 snaps and posted the team’s second-best Pro Football Focus grade of the game (85.5) behind only D.J. Moore (87.1).

Dexter had seen a curious decrease in snaps against the Denver Broncos and largely watched from the sidelines as the team blew a late lead. Not so this time.

As the second-round pick from the 2023 NFL Draft comes into his own, it feels like the Bears need to remove the training wheels and treat Dexter like a starter on the defensive front. Quite frankly, Chicago’s defensive front can’t be the best version of itself until they do.

While head coach and defensive play-caller Matt Eberflus might like Justin Jones’ experience, Jones’ actual production in no way justifies him playing almost 45 snaps a game. Currently, Jones grades out as the 113th-ranked interior defender in football out of 124, and his film reveals practically nothing impactful about his play.

Even the notion that Jones is a better run defender than Dexter at this stage in the rookie’s career is flawed: Dexter’s 54.4 run defense grade outstrips Jones (47.6) in addition to what Dexter has flashed on passing downs. The rookie even has more “stops” in the run game (six) than Jones does (two).

So what is it you’d say you do here, Mr. Jones? If the answer is “not much of anything” — which it is — Jones should not be out-snapping Dexter from here on out.

Currently, Andrew Billings, who has been a revelation (just about the only one) for this defense, is the only defensive lineman on the team with any punch whatsoever, with Rasheem Green and DeMarcus Walker serving as average-at-best ancillary pieces. Though Dexter’s get-off appears to be improving with time, his raw power has stood out the most in his limited early sample size and creates the most dynamic combination with Billings.

One could argue Dexter is playing out of position and would perhaps be best used as a giant one-technique on a team with more depth and talent. (If fellow rookie Zacch Pickens can show any potential whatsoever as a backup three-technique, perhaps we’ll see that utilization come to fruition more often.) And maybe keeping Dexter on the field with the second rotation that includes Pickens, who has struggled to start his career, is a necessary evil.

But as of now, the Bears’ best defensive front involves having Billings and Dexter on the field together in the starting lineup. The sooner Chicago realizes that, the better.