Bears need to be in a rush to improve defensi
Bears need to be in a rush to improve defensive line
Finding solid under tackle via the draft or free agency should be a top priority
Dan Pompei On the NFL 4:47 p.m. CST, March 6, 2011
To get to the promised land, the Bears are going to have to get to the quarterback first. So an offseason priority is to give Julius Peppers some help.
They might do this by acquiring a defensive tackle. They might do this by acquiring a defensive end. They might do this by acquiring both. But they definitely need to do some acquiring.
All things being equal, a defensive tackle is more appealing. If the most important player on the offense is the quarterback, then the most important player on the defense — the Bears' defense — is the under tackle, or three-technique tackle.
So while Tommie Harris packs his belongings and blows kisses to the masses, a calculated, diligent search is being conducted to find his replacement.
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"The best way to help Pep is if you can get an under tackle," Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "It's so important in our system. It's the motor that drives the train. It gets everything going. If you have an active guy inside, the offense has to be aware of where he is at all times. Then the other guys come alive."
Since joining the Bears in 2009, Marinelli has not had the kind of explosive, consistent under tackle that his defense demands. Harris used to be that player, but he hasn't been since a serious hamstring injury and a knee injury diminished his lower body power.
It's a good year to go looking for pass rush, however. The 2011 draft offers more pass rushers at both tackle and end than any draft in recent memory. There is a chance as many as eight ends and six tackles could be taken in the first round.
"It's one of the better drafts I've seen both inside and outside," Marinelli said of the linemen. "I don't think I've seen a draft like this in 15 combines."
Among the draft prospects who could be considered under tackles are Auburn's Nick Fairley, Illinois' Corey Liuget, Miami's Allen Bailey, North Carolina's Marvin Austin, Louisiana State's Drake Nevis and Southern California's Jurrell Casey. Each could be selected by the start of the third round.
If the Bears strike out in the draft for an under tackle, they also could fall back on free agency. But there is much less to choose from in the veteran market.
About the only intriguing possibility at this point appears to be Cullen Jenkins. The seven-year Packer is expected to leave Green Bay, and he still can play at the age of 30. Jenkins has been playing end in the Packers' 3-4 front, but he has the first-step quickness and ability to disrupt that would translate to playing under tackle in a 4-3. He had seven sacks in 11 games in 2010.
Regardless of who is acquired, Marinelli and the Bears coaches also hope to develop some of their own young pass rushers.
Henry Melton often played the under-tackle position on nickel downs last season, and he is the team's best inside pass rusher for the time being. Melton started out as a 269-pound end, but Marinelli liked what he saw when he tried him in an inside pass-rush drill one night during Melton's rookie training camp. Now, Melton is a 290-pound tackle with quickness and explosion that is rare for the position, Marinelli said.
"It's a hard position to play because you have to max out on every single snap," Marinelli said. "Physically, they get after you. He's still learning that. But he's a good worker. He's fast and he's tough. Athletically, he has everything you could ask for at that position."
Marinelli also indicated he still has hopes for Marcus Harrison, the 2008 third-round pick who was on the inactive list for a dozen games last season. Harrison is gifted, but Marinelli acknowledges he doesn't always play as hard as he needs to.
"You can't put that all on the player though," Marinelli said. "That's part of the coach's job. Whatever is there I have to bring out of him. I'll never give up on him. He'll give up on himself before I give up on him."
The pass rush also could get a lift if Corey Wootton, the team's fourth-round pick last year, continues to develop the way he did late in the year.
"He has good size and speed, and he has a really good motor," Marinelli said. "He really comes after it. I'm excited about him. It's just learning the game."
What could help Wootton, Harrison and Melton more than anything might be the addition of an explosive under tackle.
That should be priority No. 1 for the Bears.
Wootton has more potential than Mark Anderson, despite having a lesser rookie season. Bigger dude, and wasn't he the guy that was gonna be a first(round pick), were it not for an injury? Either way, I think Melton could be something good for us, but just in a rotational basis; I think we need a Liuget or Ballard in there to mix things up. I think Ballard really could be a wildcard for Marinelli to have fun with on this D-line.
Last edited by Henry Burris; 03-07-2011 at 08:17 AM.
Bears SHOULD be in a rush to improve the offensive line.
Yep, wootton about 30lbs heavier and a much better run defender already. Wootton was a projected late first rounder, but blew out his knee and tried to come back too soon his senior year and why fell in draft to bears
Originally Posted by Henry Burris
He was very limited in his play, but he also appeared to be an improvement over Anderson on the rush defense, didn't he?
Yep, he was good against the rush.. think he will play a much bigger role in 2011, izzy good play kept his playing time down in 2010
Originally Posted by Henry Burris
I noticed during the cowboys game (and well, several others) that they would rotate EVERYONE out, and with Wooten in the mix of things, that helps our DE position, but when they rotate Peppers out on occassion, who would be our best bet as the other guy? I can't remember if i saw melton or whomever rotating in for him last year, but I'm willing to bet that we're gonna get at least 2 DT's, so that even if we get an upgrade over Tommie Harris, we'll still have someone to keep the pass rush fresh.
Windy, I think it was you that I had a disagreement with over Melton's weight. Marinelli says he's playing at 290lbs so you were right and I was wrong. I owe you an apology.
The nice thing about this draft is the shear number of pass rushing type UT's available. We definitely need one and the drafts got some.
Given our needs at both LT and UT, and a good supply of each, most likely we'll have the luxury of a choice of either. FA offers us guys like Jenkins (UT) and Mebane (NT) if we don't re-sign Adams and also possible LT canidates in guys like Clabo or Gaither. Anything we forecast as far as the Bears first choice is pretty much based on conjecture until after FA if we get there before the draft.
Most of us have our favorites at these positions and my guess is that we'll fill both spots in the first two rounds and if we can do that with guys who are ready to play as rookies we should all be very happy.
Liuget splitting time w/Melton would be a great situation! I think it is a MUST to re-sign Adams, I don't wish to see Harrison in the NT rotation.
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we need to derentiate between staples of the dlin and situational players. That was Anderson downfall is that he was nothing more then a situational guy and hurt the team trying to make him something he isnt. I hope they dont do the same with Melton. He is good and liked his energy out there and he is a need on the team but to make him the 3 tech guy to replace Harris is wrong. There are some good ones in this draft that can fill the need even though they arent the great prospect tommie was. Guys with the Harris, Sapp, Suh etc... type talent at the 3tech dont grow on trees
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