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10 Most Important Bears of 2023: #7 Kyler Gordon

For the 15th consecutive year I’m bringing you who I believe will be the 10 most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season, and next up is defensive back Kyler Gordon.

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The very first draft pick of the Ryan Poles era, Kyler Gordon, checks in at number seven of my 10 Most Important Chicago Bears series, and this is only the second time I’ve ever had a nickelback on my list. The first time I featured the nickel was 2019, but that was because there was uncertainty surrounding the position. Bryce Callahan wasn’t re-signed, and the Bears were looking for someone to step up in camp and take control of the job.

This time I have the nickel on my list because of how much head coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams values what the position means to their scheme. Eberflus has called it the third most critical position on the defense behind the three-technique defensive tackle and weakside linebacker, and Williams said it’s the most difficult position to learn on the D.

Gordon had an inconsistent rookie season, but there were flashes of the player the Bears hope he’ll become, and in 2023 he’s moving to slot corner full-time.

“It’s definitely like the quarterback of the defense,” Gordon said via the Sun Times last year after a practice about the nickleback. “You’ve got to know the calls, be able to communicate, be loud, efficient, fast and smart and be able to react fast. It is very -important.”

With how often teams are in defensive sub packages these days and with how versatile offenses have become, the nickel needs to be able to match up with shifty receivers as well as big tight ends. He must also maintain gap integrity like a linebacker, provide a physical presence, and have the instincts to blitz.

“That nickel position is a hard position,” coach Eberflus said last month via ESPN. “You do a lot of different things in there, a lot of different techniques. Things happen fast in there. You have to fit the run. So there’s a lot of things that you have to do in there as a football player and we’re fortunate to have him in there.”

With Gordon no longer playing two positions, he should thrive in his sophomore season as his understanding of the game allows him to play faster.

“I felt like even in the [2022] season, even like midway and going to the end, it got just like slower and slower and slower,” Gordon said via Sports Illustrated. “Just calmer and calmer. I would just see what I needed to see and not try to make every play and be everywhere and stuff like that. Just control myself.”

“I’m not going to lie, I do miss [outside] corner,” Gordon said. “I love corner. But yeah, it definitely is nice to focus on nickel and take in as much as I can there and perfect that spot.”

He’ll still get a handful of reps outside just to stay fresh, and his versatility and experience have him embracing a leadership role in the secondary with this year’s two corner draft picks, Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith.

“I’ve been talking to them a lot,” he said vis SI last month. “They’ve been making a plays already. We talk on the sideline, talk before practice and just giving tips, stuff that I had my first year. Nothing but good things for them, and I think they are going to be good.”

Gordon’s established role in the secondary is good for his confidence too. He’ll be with the ones all camp at slot corner with Jaylon Johnson and the rookie Stevenson at outside corner, and Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker at safety. Once training camp gets started in a few weeks, these five will be able to build continuity all through it and the preseason.

“I do feel extremely comfortable,” Gordon said. “I feel like I know my place, where I’m supposed to be and stuff like that, so definitely coming back this second year, I definitely don’t have any of the ‘where am I?’ like I did the first year.”