Bears DL Draft Preview: 3-4 means new 'types' up front


Bears DL Draft Preview: 3-4 means new 'types' up front Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2015 NFL Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what could be in store.

Bears pre-draft situation

After more than a decade of staffing the defensive line with players suited for a one-gap, up-the-field 4-3 defense, the Bears tasked new GM Ryan Pace with taking a completely different direction, into a 3-4. That involved a different type of defensive lineman, ones typically larger and suited for accounting for the gaps on either side of an offensive lineman (two-gap) rather than for attacking and disrupting through an assigned gap (one-gap).

Pace and the Bears made that an offseason prime directive, signing Jarvis Jenkins from the Washington Redskins and Ray McDonald from the San Francisco 49ers, where he played for new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Neither qualify as pass-rush threats, but both represent physical two-gap players responsible for keeping blockers off linebackers and handling the run.

[DRAFT PREVIEW: Offseason moves lower LB need level]

In what may be a fortuitous irony, the players that Phil Emery drafted to fit into that one-gap speed-based 4-3 scheme may emerge as better fits into an entirely different system under an entirely different coaching staff.

Ego Ferguson was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft as either the replacement or successor to Stephen Paea. Ferguson performed respectably in spots last season but did not play his way ahead of Paea, who will show up at Soldier Field Dec. 13 wearing a Redskins uniform.

But when Pace was asked about options at nose tackle in the developing 3-4 under Fangio and head coach John Fox, Pace said that he considered the roster to have two, meaning Ferguson and veteran Jeremiah Ratliff. And also meaning that Ferguson already had impressed the incoming staff to earn inclusion in Pace’s thinking, one of the few clear endorsements handed out by either Fox or Pace ahead of on-field minicamp time.

[DRAFT PREVIEW: OL Rebound in 2015 a must but not via draft]

Will Sutton was Emery’s third-round pick last year, had little impact in his rookie season, improving dramatically through training camp and the preseason but proving unable to overcome a size disadvantage with his speed and quickness. Sutton started five games – the ones that Ratliff had to miss for a concussion (three) and knee injury (two). Sutton had a solid game against the New York Jets, his first start, but despite playing the fifth-most snaps of any member of the front seven, had the second-lowest rating of any Bear defensive player, according to evaluations.

Sutton is in a competition for a roster spot behind Jenkins and McDonald as the five-techniques, a position that is effectively a blend of end and tackle. Sutton is listed as 6-feet but Pace and the Bears value length in the front seven, evidenced by the Jenkins (6-foot-4) and McDonald (6-foot-3) signings. Whether Sutton can work into the new scheme will play out over the next several months.

Bears draft priority: Low

Fox and Pace come from backgrounds that tilt heavily toward high draft picks on defense. And in spite of the offseason additions, the Bears will not pass up a value pick for the defensive line if one escapes selection on days one (round 1) and two (rounds 2-3).

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]

But the presumptive starters for the “3” of 3-4 are in place and greater needs exist elsewhere (receiver, rush-linebacker). The Bears will snag another lineman if a value pick falls to them but the front-three is less a need that a couple other areas.

Keep an eye on...

Arik Armstead, OregonHas size (6-foot-7) for a 3-4 defensive end.

Malcom Brown, TexasSimilar physically to Ferguson, may be more polished as a pass rusher for a big (319 pounds) man.

Danny Shelton, WashingtonProjected at NT, may be too good to pass up if he slips down somehow, with nine sacks in 2014.

Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

The first phase of the 2020 NFL offseason will kick off on March 18 when the signing period for free agency officially begins. Teams can negotiate with free agents beginning on March 16, and the Bears are expected to be among the cluster of clubs searching for upgrades at several key positions.

GM Ryan Pace is likely to focus his free-agent budget on a veteran quarterback, help along the offensive line, and the secondary where players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Prince Amukamara face uncertain futures. There's also the tight end problem, which Pace can use free agency to land a quick fix.

This year's free-agent class his headlined by high-upside yet risky players. Many of the top names are coming off of breakout seasons but have resumes of underwhelming production.

Here's a look at the top 30 free agents scheduled to hit the open market.

Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'


Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'

Former Bears offensive linemen Kyle Long appeared on The Rap Sheet and Friends podcast hosted by NFL insider Ian Rapoport and he didn't shy away from questions about Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Long, while stating that he understood the questioning and criticism that Trubisky faces, still believes in him.

"The Bears have won with Mitchell Trubisky."

Indeed Mitch was the starter for 14 games of the Bears 12-4 season before this year's 8-8 disappointment. The issue was Trubisky's play was of course, as he didn't show any noticeable improvement in 2019 after tossing 24 touchdowns in 2018. "We all regressed this year, but unfortunately heavy lies the head that wears the crown, and Mitch is the captain," Long said. 

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise, and he’s young. He’s so young."

Long seems excited by the idea of Chicago's hires, saying that new faces could have quite the positive effect on Trubisky’s game "I’m looking forward to seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch. It’ll be cool to see.”

This offseason the Bears have brought in a new offensive coordinator (Bill Lazor), quarterbacks coach (John DeFilippo), and promoted former quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator. Bears head coach Matt Nagy, similar to Long, has faith in Trubisky developing, especially in regard to Ragone. In December Nagy said, “I think I know Mitch better than anybody in this building, except maybe Dave Ragone.”

Long certainly seems to miss his teammates though he clearly has no regrets about his decision. He and Trubisky definitely share a bond that will last long beyond their playing days. “I love the kid, he’s a great friend obviously, a teammate, but I’m looking forward to seeing him develop.”

Similar to the message delivered by the Bears’ front office, Long was in full support of Trubisky throughout the entire interview.

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise...”

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