Who fills Anderson's spot on Bears' D-line?
October 8, 2010 9:04 AM | No Comments
By Brad Biggs
The Bears signed Charles Grant in the wake of Mark Anderson's departure earlier this week, but it remains to be seen exactly how the team will divide the workload along the defensive line.
Vaughn McClure detailed here how it is an opportunity for Henry Melton, who has primarily been playing at tackle in nickel pass-rushing situations, to get more playing time on the outside. Lovie Smith has also mentioned rookie fourth-round draft pick Corey Wootton as a possibility. Then, there is Grant, who could suit up and play Sunday at Carolina.
Anderson started the season opener and was on the field for 52.78 percent of the defensive snaps through the first four games. Israel Idonije will remain the strarter at left end, and his playing time increased significantly last Sunday at New York when he saw action on 43 of the 64 defensive snaps. He's at 55.95 percent for the season.
Between Idonije playing a little more and newcomers, the Bears have to make up for half of the snaps in the game. That is essentially what Anderson was getting. They also want to be mindful of how often Julius Peppers is on the field. He took only five plays off against the Giants and is at 87.3 percent for the season
The best guess is that either Wootton or Grant will take Anderson's spot on the gameday roster against the Panthers. The Bears don't have room for both of them to be in uniform. Look for Melton to get some more time at end, where he's played 10 of his 47 snaps this season, including one play last week.
Wootton, a Northwestern product, has yet to be active and is hoping his number will be called.
"I am just trying to do everything I can out on the field just to prove to them that I can contribute to this team," he said. "It has been (tough sitting out) but I have just been trying to do everything I can that I can control, which is getting better every week and everyone wants to be out there but you can only dress 46 during the game. Just doing everything I can to get on that active rotation."
The coaches have been preaching the need for him to play with better leverage. The lean 6-6, 270-pounder can't make himself shorter, though, and that makes it difficult.
"It's definitely gotten a lot better but still when you're a tall guy you have to keep working on staying low and just working on your pad level," he said.
The other question with Wootton is his health. He's played a lot of football since tearing an ACL less than two years ago, and sometimes it takes longer than that for players to fully recover.
"I definitely feel like I am back," Wootton said. "The biggest thing, camp was tough just because the previous camp the year before I didn't really do much because I was coming back from the injury and the biggest thing was my legs were really fatigued because I hadn't gone through that camp like I did in the previous years. Starting to get my legs back under me the past few weeks, getting them back and getting them fresh."
• In his return to action, defensive tackle Tommie Harris was on the field for 33 plays against the Giants. As we've detailed here, it will be impossible for Harris to hit the 74 percent threshold in his contract as part of a de-escalating roster bonus in 2012. Harris has reached that figure only once in his career and a quarter of the way through the season he's at 52.38 percent.