Bears give top pick Kyler Gordon chance to be ‘QB of defense’

For all the praise the Bears have heaped upon their top draft pick, former Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon, nothing speaks louder than the faith they’ve shown in him by letting him play the slot.

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Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon speaks at a press conference.

The Bears are playing Kyler Gordon at both outside cornerback and nickel.

Nam Huh, AP Photos

Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams considers nickel cornerback to be the most difficult position on the field. To start training camp, though, he put a rookie there.

For all the praise the Bears have heaped upon their top draft pick, former Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon, nothing speaks louder than the faith they’ve shown in him by letting him play the slot.

The Bears say they’re cross-training Gordon at outside cornerback and the nickel spot, but Gordon is ready to embrace the latter. He said Thursday that he suspected during OTAs that the team eventually would move him inside and smiled when they told him of their plans to.

In coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense, nickel cornerback is one of the most critical pieces, behind the three-technique defensive tackle and weak-side linebacker.

“It’s definitely like the quarterback of the defense,” Gordon said after practice. “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.”

There was a time when the nickel cornerback was the equivalent of the NBA’s sixth man — an important backup. But the proliferation of passing has turned the nickel position into a starting job. Leaguewide, defenses play in nickel and dime packages more often than their base defenses.

“Whether they thought back then it was important or not, that’s like a starting spot — and it’s a big piece,” Gordon said. “You’re going to stop a lot of good wide receivers. So I would have been excited back then to even guard that main dude that like — who could I think of? Any of those slot dudes back then, I would love to guard them in the slot, most definitely.”

Nickel cornerbacks are more active in the running game, too, something the 6-foot, 200-pound Gordon enjoyed being when he played in the slot at Washington. Moving Gordon around would allow the Bears to play Kindle Vildor outside or, perhaps, former Ravens nickel back Tavon Young inside, depending on matchups.

“Just a lot of different things I can do thereto really show all of my abilities,” Gordon said.

The Bears have raved about Gordon’s abilities since, to their surprise, he was available with the No. 39 pick in the draft. A competitive dancer as a child, Gordon possesses unique footwork and impressive body -control. Receiver Darnell Mooney said -Gordon “trusts his feet” and doesn’t grab at jerseys at the line of scrimmage the way other younger cornerbacks do.

“He’s definitely going to be able to make some plays solely off his athleticism — him being physical, him being able to find the ball,” said Jaylon Johnson, the Bears’ standout third-year cornerback. “Those are some good qualities to have as a young corner.”

Eberflus believes in the value of players being proficient at multiple positions. But there’s no question the Bears see something special in Gordon.

“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Eberflus said. “He’s uber-smart. I mean, he’s so smart. And he’s able to move in and out. He can play any position. I think the guy could play three -positions if we let him — but we’re not going to do that.”

It’s two — for now.

“He’s just a freak athlete, man,” safety -Eddie Jackson said.

“If you see him, like, some of the plays he makes, it’s not even his man. He’s coming off his man, making plays on the ball. So just seeing how very instinctive he is. He’s smart. He’s willing to learn. He talks less, and he takes everything in.

“When you have a guy like that, you know he’s going to be special.”

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