Wootton hoping to boost Bears pass rush
By Brad Biggs Tribune reporter 11:21 a.m. CDT, July 12, 2011
Alex Brown used to joke about it every spring, how the Chicago Bears drafted a defensive end on an annual basis.
They'd come and they'd go, and Brown would stick around in the starting lineup. His turn to go came a year ago, but the veteran, now with the Saints, was making a good point: The Bears were forever seeking ends, particularly ones that could rush the passer.
But this year, for just the second time since 2005, the team did not use a draft pick on a defensive end. A year after devoting $40 million guaranteed to Julius Peppers, it wasn't deemed a top priority in the draft. It reamins to be seen if the team looks for a situational pass rusher or role player in free agency, but Corey Wootton, a fourth-round pick last year from Northwestern, is in position to compete for the job as the swing end.
Wootton was active in six games in 2010 and played 84 defensive snaps -- a little more than 8 percent for the season. He's best known for KO'ing Brett Favre on the final play of the future Hall of Famer's career with a sack in the Dec. 20 victory at Minnesota. He'd like to be known for consistency and contributing on a regular basis.
How much better can Wootton be?
"I think a lot better because you are a lot more experienced and you've been out there and you understand what it takes," he said Saturday when volunteering for a youth camp at Northwestern. "That's the biggest thing."
Not being able to work with the coaches during the four-month lockout has hurt Wootton like it has all young players. But he feels good about his approach to an offseason of uncertainty. He took two weeks off after the season ended and then began strength training at Poliquin Performance Center in Northfield and speed, quickness and position drills at TC Boost in Northbrook.
"I'm a lot leaner now and I have more strength on me," Wootton said. "I went up in all my lifts significantly. I'm feeling really strong, really explosive. I really feel like I am at a point where I am past where I was in college. With coach (Rod) Marinelli, it's all about speed and quickness."
Wootton knows expectations will be ramped up in his second season. Brown expected to be drafted much higher than he was as a fourth-round pick in 2002. It drove him to prove he was overlooked. Wootton was selected in the fourth round after many thought he would be chosen in the second round. He has a chance to carve out a role for himself behind Peppers and Israel Idonije, especially with Henry Melton expected to compete inside at tackle.
"It changes every year for every player, they expect a little bit more from you," Wootton said. "I am just trying to show them what I can do and help this team out a little bit more.
"I'm hoping I can show the coaches what I can do and they'll like what I have done this offseason and the improvements I have made."
Here is a look at the defensive ends selected by the Bears during general manager Jerry Angelo's tenure:
2010 Corey Wootton 4th round, Northwestern 2009 Henry Melton 4th round, Texas 2008 Ervin Baldwin 7th round, Michigan State 2007 Dan Bazuin 2nd round, Central Michigan 2006 Mark Anderson 5th round, Alabama 2004 Claude Harriott 5th round, Pittsburgh 2003 Michael Haynes 1st round, Penn State 2002 Alex Brown 4th round, Florida 2002 Bryan Knight 5th round, Pittsburgh
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