Rookie DTs Will Sutton, Ego Ferguson earn boffo early reviews
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter July 31, 2014 8:57PM
Updated: July 31, 2014 9:15PM
BOURBONNAIS — All the fast-paced sparring with skills-development coach Joe Kim after practice leaves its marks — literally — on rookie defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson.
There are bruised forearms, fingers that sting and rough hands.
“We call him ‘Master,’ ” Sutton said during Bears training camp at Olivet Nazarene University. “He’s a black belt, so when it comes to hands [work], he gets excited. The hat goes backward, and it’s go time.”
All of it goes into helping Sutton and Ferguson master their crafts for the NFL’s cutthroat trenches. The duo is the future of the defensive line, but also its depth for the 2014 season. Their efforts in the line’s rotation are as critical as first-round pick Kyle Fuller’s development at cornerback.
“They brought us here because they felt like we could do something,” Sutton said.
Their differences make them stronger.
Sutton, a third-round pick from Arizona State, is a flashy, two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year who meets the athletic criteria for the three-technique tackle spot.
Ferguson, a second-rounder from LSU, has the makeup to be a block-eating nose tackle who overpowers through leverage and brute strength.
“My personal belief is that they’re going to play in this league for a long time,” defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said. “You have a prototypical [one-technique tackle] and three right there.”
Ferguson and Sutton have made sure to fill their minds with every piece of advice that Ratliff, Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Stephen Paea and others provide.
“I probably ask Jay Ratliff a thousand questions a day,” Ferguson said.
There have been only six practices — four in pads — but Ferguson and Sutton have earned the attention of the offensive line.
Guard Matt Slauson said Ferguson shows up on film as “very aggressive.” But his frequent battles with Sutton have left an impression.
“His mental side of the game I am very impressed with,” Slauson said. “The things that he picks up about what I do, now I have to change my whole game for him.
“A lot of times you go against a rookie and you’re like, ‘Ah, I can just take a normal set because I know he doesn’t know a lot.’ But that worked for a day. He’s changed everything, and now I’ve got to change. It’s awesome.”
The rookie duo doesn’t lack for personality. If you need a laugh, Ferguson is your guy.
“He tells a lot of funny jokes,” Sutton said.
If you’re looking to dance, Sutton has the moves.
“He brings that West Coast swagger,” Ferguson said. “He likes to dance, and he’s always saying, ‘For sure.’ Those are his favorite words.”
Sutton and Ferguson are nearly inseparable, sharing a bond that has blossomed since the NFL Scouring Combine. Their dorm rooms are next to each other’s, and each acts as an alarm clock for the other. They go over film and walk to meetings together. Sutton teaches Ferguson pass-rush moves, and Ferguson helps Sutton with his techniques against the run.
“We act like we’ve known each other for years,” Sutton said.
“It takes a lot of pressure off of you,” Ferguson said.
Defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni would be happy to hear they’re leaning on each other because, he said, “This is too hard to try to do all by yourself.”
But more trials await.
“We’re working into the second half of this thing,” coach Marc Trestman said. “Will they know their assignments? Where will the mental errors be? Will they have the energy to be able to continue to move forward?”
So far so good.
“Both of those new guys,” Slauson said, “with the complement of [Ratliff] and Stephen will be very, very good.”