Flexibility is the Key to Bears Retooled Defense..........

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by soulman, Mar 30, 2014.

  1. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/ct-hybrid-defense-bears-spt-0330-20140330,0,127279,full.story
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    Chicago Bears
    
    By Rich Campbell, Tribune reporter
    3:53 p.m. CDT, March 29, 2014
    
    
    ORLANDO, Fla. — Jared Allen will hold up his Bears jersey and smile for the cameras Monday at Halas Hall when he's introduced as the newest member of their restructured defense. The sight of a five-time Pro Bowl defensive end framed by navy and orange will push memories of the Bears' defensive disaster last season further into the distance.
    
    Upstairs in the coaches' offices on the other side of team headquarters, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker can celebrate. Allen is another component of the Bears' evolving formula for a disruptive, play-making defense that's predicated on versatile personnel.
    
    Since Jan. 2, coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery have described their vision for a defense that can better create favorable matchups, confuse offenses and pressure the quarterback. Now, almost three weeks into free agency and six weeks before the draft, there's a clearer picture of which players will fuel the evolution and what to expect from the scheme.
    
    "You'd like to be flexible enough," Trestman said, "to have the ability to play different-looking fronts, to bring different kinds of pressures, to play different kinds of coverages and then put it all together."
    
    At a breakfast with reporters Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings, Trestman cautioned against referring to the Bears defense as "multiple." As they advance from the 4-3, Cover-2 scheme Tucker kept from coach Lovie Smith's tenure, they aren't expected to play often with a three-man line.
    
    Trestman prefers "flexible," a description that conjures expectations for "over" or "under" alignments or different blitz formations within the structure of a four-man line.
    
    The Bears acquired Allen to help achieve that flexibility. His pass-rushing prowess could enable them to pressure the quarterback with only four rushers and thus be creative with coverages. And Allen's presence at right end should allow the Bears to position free-agent defensive end Lamarr Houston in different spots depending on matchups.
    
    From studying defenses through his offense-tinted glasses, Trestman covets such flexibility for the Bears because of how challenging it can be for a quarterback to solve.
    
    "What a quarterback sees initially is part of his evaluation of how he's going to play on that play," Trestman said. "Sometimes there's going to be a look that you're going to know exactly what a defense is going to do, and that's not a bad thing (for the defense). If you play it well, that's all you really need to do.
    
    "Other times, what you see pre-snap is going to create questions in the quarterback's mind, and there will be some uncertainty — that's a good thing."
    
    Mismatch game
    
    Trestman and Tucker aren't overhauling the defensive scheme. They're adding to what's in place, Trestman said. As they plan, Trestman can rely on his experience attacking defenses and flip that script.
    
    He knows which route combinations are designed to solve Cover-2, what blitzes beat certain protections. Offenses, however, have the advantage of dictating personnel. Defenses have to adjust to whether the offense plays with five wide receivers or their jumbo personnel.
    
    A defense with versatile personnel reverses some of those dilemmas, coaches say.
    
    "Talent is important, but you can schematically try to create matchups," Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We try to do it offensively. You never know for sure what you're going to get."
    
    So what's the key to that?
    
    "If you're going to change in and out," Whisenhunt said, "then you've got to have the athletic defensive end/linebacker that can do multiple things for you, that has the ability to line up in different spots and create those mismatches."
    
    Houston and end-turned-linebacker Shea McClellin project into those roles for the Bears.
    
    By Emery's count, Houston played more than 700 snaps standing up last season for the Raiders, and he lined up with his hand on the ground more than 800 times in 2012. He has played on the right side and the left side. When Bears coaches finally get to evaluate him up close during spring practices, they'll determine what he does best and hone his role.
    
    The Bears hope McClellin is similarly effective as a linebacker and situational pass rusher. In order to be a versatile asset, he must be more consistent in finishing his pass rushes with sacks, and he must adjust to reading and reacting from off the line of scrimmage.
    
    "Shea will be used in multiple roles, wherever his skills will take him," Emery said on Feb. 20. "He is a perfect candidate to be on the field all downs in some capacity, whether that is blitzing, rushing, playing against the run in run personnel, but he is going to have to compete for his job."
    
    Impact players
    
    It's one thing for a defensive coordinator to have versatile personnel. It's another for him to use it effectively.
    
    "Some of the better defenses are some of the simpler ones," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "They just know when and how to use it. Whether it's a blitz game — OK, well, this is when we're going to shoot this thing.
    
    "Most of all, the great defensive coordinators know the protections that you use, they know when you're going to use them and they're going to have something in there that can get you if you're not on top of your game."
    
    Trestman plans to be more involved with defensive meetings and increase the frequency of his interactions with defensive players, a change he characterized as a natural evolution of a coach in his second season.
    
    Tucker, meanwhile, remains at the controls on game day with an opportunity to show last year's struggles resulted more from injury attrition than anything else.
    
    "I can sit in a room and break down tape with Mel and know exactly what he means and know what he's trying to achieve," linebacker Lance Briggs said on WGWG-FM 87.7 this month. "The calls that Mel made during the year were the right calls. Shoot, 98 percent of the calls that he made were the right calls. We just didn't execute."
    
    Trestman and Tucker hired two coaching veterans to the staff — defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni and linebackers coach Reggie Herring — with the expectation their experience will help develop players' skills.
    
    It's too early to measure their impact, but talented players tend to make coaches look good, especially when it comes to strategizing how to disrupt the quarterback.
    
    "You've got to be capable of providing pressure, but more important than that, you've got to be capable of providing pressure with four or less," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "That's what gives you the flexibility to be something to deal with."
    
    Allen could make the biggest impact in that area. Although Houston has improved as a pass rusher, he is more heralded as a run stopper and tackler. The same goes for free-agent defensive end Willie Young, who became a full-time starter with the Lions last season for the first time.
    
    Allen, though, is one of the most accomplished pass rushers in NFL history because of his hand technique, leverage and ability to take proper angles to the quarterback. His ability to win matchups could unlock the front seven's flexibility.
    
    For now, that remains only a projection. But as the vision becomes reality through meetings and practices this spring and into training camp, keep in mind the Bears' goal of flexibility and Trestman's line of thinking.
    
    "The process is: Who are our players?" he said. "What can we do with them? And do it well."
    
    rcampbell@tribune.com
    
    Twitter @Rich_Campbell
    
    Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
    
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    It found this article in the Trib but it would not let me post it in the usual way so I had to get around it like this. Sorry if tougher to read but the points Trestman and others make in here give some important insights into what the plan is for both scheme and personnel. Here's a few of the highlight.

    1) Positional flexibility of certain players will be a key. Trestman wants the defense to align to create confusion on the part of the opposing QB and mismatches against the opposing OLine.

    2) We'll use varied alignments and personnel packages based off a 4-3 front but seldom play a 3-4. The plan is to create confusion and deception by adding to what we do now, not revamp the entire defense.

    3) Jared Allen is a key to creating more flexibility for Houston and Young with the possibility of moving the DEs around left to right and even using Houston inside to rush but nowhere does it say they plan to use him as a full time 3 tech DT. He will still play most of his snaps at DE.

    4) Shea McClellin is expected to start at SLB and to also be moved around in different alignments to maximize his effectiveness as a pass rusher and penetrator. Emery expects him to become an every down player this year in this capacity.

    5) Their main objective in addition to adding two linemen who play the run very well is to establish pressure on the QB with four rushers and blitz as needed but not to depend on the blitz to create that pressure. They still want to be able to play Cover-2 pass defense with 7 in coverage.

    6) The process will be to take the players they have and put them in the best positions to succeed based on their particular skills. Or as I interpret it we plan to stop putting square pegs in round holes.

    Hope this answers some questions and gives more insight into what if any additions Emery plans through FA and how they might approach the draft. They, of course, are not saying so it's a matter of reading between the lines.
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  3. tbear1

    tbear1 Veteran

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    I like how involved and engaged Trestman is sounding on defense. I am still on the 'prove it' camp for Tucker, so this gives me some encouragement for the upcoming defensive team.
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  4. 4dabers

    4dabers Veteran DBS Writer

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    Good read Soul. Thanks for sharing.
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  5. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    That screams for a big bodied fat boy in the middle, even if it is seldom doesn't it? Before Tucker it was never an option, now it's seldom, that means having guys that can transition from 4-3 to 3-4, and not just "classic" positional players, but more flexible players.
  6. butkus3595

    butkus3595 Pro-Bowler

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    On both offense and defense it's all about creating mismatches. Having an offensive mind like Trestman should help any dc.
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  7. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    Something Lawrence Holmes said, and was always frusterated by Lovie, was that a really great DC/OC should be able to help reverse engineer the other side of the ball, ie should be able to help their counterpart see where the weaknesses are in others schemes and create a better scheme.
    For Lovie it drove him nuts he couldn't help his OC's create a better gameplan by saying you cannot do that b/c a DC will just do this, or hey you can exploit this D by doing this.
    For Trestman he's hoping(and it sounds like it's happening) he'll help Tucker by doing the exact opposite of what Lovie should have done.
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  8. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Trestman seems intelligent enough to see the team in holistic terms of "The Big Picture" rather than Lovie's limited scope (Lovie was limited to the defense). Lovie seemed detached from the offense and simply abdicated everything to the OC. When the OC's faltered, Lovie would leave them in place for too long before bringing in a new guy (who was just as clueless about offense as the guy fired).

    I don't believe Trestman will do this with the defense. The defense will be respectable now, as well as the offense.

    I think Trestman has the mental gears to understand defense as well as offense, and will be more pro-active in what happens there. If the defense falters again this year then Mel will be gone. Trestman probably did the right thing by giving Mel this season before firing him. I think Trestman also understands that you don't win championships by being strong in only 1 team unit (defense or offense). You need to build the best overall team. Sure, one unit will be more dominant that the other, but it's not mutually exclusive to have a great offense, and still have a very respectable defense and special teams. This is my gut feeling with Trestman as our HC now. I hope this is the case, and Emery can improve the overall talent, especially in the draft over the years. This all seems like a formula for sustained winning in Chicago. It all starts with a smarter HC, and a GM who does better with the talent pipeline coming through the drafts over the years.
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  9. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    :guinness: Thanks.
  10. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    As tbear was saying he's gonna be far more involved on both sides of the ball which is good. That's what a HC is supposed to do. I believe from what I saw last year that he has some supremely competent coaches on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously Kromer did a superb job with the line and as an OC in general but so did Mike Groh with the receivers and I'm not sure Matt Cavanaugh get all the credit he deserves as the QB coach either. I think he had a lot do with cleaning up some of Cutler's mechanics and his growth last year and in helping get McCown prepared to take over. With a halfway decent defense he could have won every game he started.

    I really do think this team is only a player or two away from competing with the best and of course Cutler has to continue to improve. A lot of this rests on his shoulders but he has the blocking and the weapons he prefers so now he has to prove himself.
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