As we assessed the Bears' needs and what was available heading into Friday's second and third rounds of the NFL Draft, there still appeared to be quality and depth available at outside linebacker. That's where 3-4 defenses get their pass rush, and besides veteran free-agent signees Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho, there was no one else on the roster with experience at that position.
There still isn't.
The Bears have to be hoping Acho returns to his 2011 rookie form, when the fourth-round draft pick had seven sacks and four forced fumbles for Arizona, but he has just six in the three years since, in part due to injury. After Acho, the main candidates John Fox and Vic Fangio have to choose from are former defensive ends Jared Allen, David Bass, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young. Houston had some experience at outside linebacker during his time in Oakland.
Among the collegians picked between Bears choices Eddie Goldman and Hroniss Grasu in those two rounds were Hau`oli Kikaha of Washington, Utah's Nate Orchard, Markus Golden of Missouri and the gamble Dallas took on first-round talent Randy Gregory of Nebraska.
But Ryan Pace, in is first draft as general manager, stuck to the overall grades on his board, rather than reach to fill a potentially greater need. As colleague John Mullin wrote Saturday in the team's recent mistake-laden history of forcing choices into specific areas, it's not something Pace wants to follow, despite what could be fan disappointment.
"You have to be disciplined with that," Pace said after all his picks were in from his first class. "When I've seen mistakes, it's because you do that, and so we promise ourselves and pride ourselves that we won't do that."
John Fox's first drafts in Carolina and Denver successfully went the pass rusher route, with Julius Peppers and Von Miller. As for what he and Fangio are left to work with:
"I personally think it's the way the board fell. If there had been certain guys that would have fit our 'Bears Box,' as far as all the ramifications of that, it would have gone just like we did the whole draft — next best player."
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After getting his new team "on the grass" for three days last week (minus the injured Houston, Young and Jon Bostic) the only addition this weekend to the defensive front seven he'll head to battle with is Goldman.
"I think we pass the eye test," Fox said late Saturday afternoon. "We only saw a few practices in their underwear (helmets, jersey, shorts). In the front, it's really hard to get a great idea until you get in pads and we get to camp and a chance t see the physicality of the group. I think Eddie will give us some flexibility up front and we'll see how that works out."
That won't happen until Bourbonnais, however, with a sneak peek at veteran minicamp in mid-June. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching staff gets what it needs out of the existing group.
Programming note: Be sure to join Jim Miller, Dave Wannstedt and me at 10:30 tonight (or after Blackhawks Postgame Live) for our 30-minute special recapping the Bears' draft.