LAKE FOREST — The Bears have seven new defensive linemen on their depth chart, with five expected to see significant playing time. The defense is changing.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker addressed the media for the first time since prior to the disappointing finish to the 2013 season, and he said changes in 2014 will be “significant.”
“There are some significant changes in terms of the techniques that we’re going to play, how we’re going to fit the run, some of our alignments,” he said. “We’ll have some alternative fronts that we’ll play.”
You can only make so many alignment and run-fit adjustments in the secondary, so many of the changes will be noticable in the front seven.
Tucker said we wouldn’t notice much of a difference at rookie minicamp, which began Friday inside the Walter Payton Center, but we already know that versatility is a big part of it, something rookie defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton are learning.
“We’ll have the flexibility to line them up. We train the guys in all the techniques and alignments up front,” said defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni. “Even though it was the first day, each of those guys aligned in about every alignment you could align in today, whether it was in individual or group period.”
In his first year with the Bears, Pasqualoni is tasked with molding this new-look front, and the Bears’ brass clearly had his coaching style and experience in mind when spending the offseason overhauling the unit.
Pasqualoni explained the benefits of making sure that players like Sutton can play other techniques besides the three-tech, and that Ferguson can do more than plug the run as a two-technique.
“If you get into the season and there is a reason why they have to play another technique, if the offense shifts the formation or if they scheme you and they catch you on a play where now, they’ve got you left-handed, for us, there won’t be such thing as left-handed,” he said. “We’re going to be able to handle both and handle both efficiently.”
Ferguson and the rest of the rookies worked up quite the sweat in Marc Trestman’s up-tempo practice, and the second-round pick got an early dose of learning more than one spot on the line.
“I’m doing a little bit of everything right now,” he said. “They’ve got me all over the place so I’m just trying to learn as much as possible.”
In his first time on the field running a defense since the season ended, Tucker no longer has to use Lovie Smith’s concepts. The scheme will be different and the players up front certainly are. This is his defense, and while we won't get a good idea of the nuts and bolts of it until Bourbonnais, he gets to put concepts into place with the rookies.
“I feel great about the direction we’re going. It’s a wait thing. It’s a group effort. Everyone is going to have a certain amount of ownership, coaches and players, we’re going to get it done together,” Tucker said. “We’re going to make sure we’re all on the same page and we’re moving in the same direction. We’ll continue to grow and work with it day to day and get it where we want it.”