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.

Pro Football Focus: Khalil Mack is NFL’s most valuable edge rusher

Pro Football Focus: Khalil Mack is NFL’s most valuable edge rusher

It didn’t take the Bears long to see how valuable Khalil Mack is to their defense, elevating the group from the moment he first stepped on the field.

He’s been among the league’s best outside linebackers since he first broke out in 2015, and the analytics back up the eye test.

He was the highest edge defender on Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 50 players in the NFL, and their “wins above replacement” metric shows why.

It’s Mack and Von Miller, then everyone else.

“Foremost, Mack is a slightly more complete player than Miller when it comes to defending the run,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “Yes, run defense is significantly less important than an edge rusher’s ability to disrupt the quarterback, but with so little difference between the players, everything gets put under the magnifying glass.”

Over the past four seasons, both players have exactly 49 sacks, although Mack missed two games over that span. The Bears outside linebacker has the edge in interceptions, forced fumbles and tackles for loss, most coming with a lower quality defense around him than what Miller has had in Denver.

It’s no surprise Ryan Pace was willing to trade multiple first-round picks to make Mack the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. He’s the best in the league.

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Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

USA Today

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

Eddie Jackson is hosting a charity softball game this Saturday, June 15th at Schamburg Boomers stadium at 5:05pm. It’ll be offense vs defense so let’s take an early look at what these lineups might look like for both teams.


1. Eddie Jackson

Has home run hitting ability in the leadoff spot and a flair for the dramatic. This rising star puts the pressure on the opposing pitcher from the very first pitch. Plus it’s his game, so of course he’s batting first.

2. Kyle Fuller

Tied for the NFL interception lead in 2018, Fuller’s combination of speed, instincts and film study  at the top of the lineup helps set the table for the big bats.

3. Akiem Hicks

As Ed O’Bradovich said at the 100 year celebration this past weekend, Khalil Mack “is a man-eater, but (Akiem Hicks) is the man who makes it happen.” It’s long been said you put your most important hitter in the 3-hole.

4. Khalil Mack

The quintessential cleanup hitter. Who else would you want in this spot?

5. Danny Trevathan

Provides world champion protection behind Mack in the likely event that the opponent tries to pitch around #52.

6. Roquan Smith

Just when an opponent think they’ve gotten thru the heart of the lineup, the 2018 rookie who came up just shy of Brian Urlacher’s franchise tackling mark is there to “break a man,” as he said right after his Bears intro press conference.

7. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix

Sliding this new addition into the 7-hole takes some of the pressure off of him to make an immediate impact, while also trapping pitchers into thinking they might get a break against a guy who has shown big play ability in the past.

8. Bilal Nichols

One of the most underrated players in the entire league is perfectly fine lurking at the bottom of the order. A second cleanup hitter, he’s happy consistently performing and making his teammates better. Everyone in this lineup knows how valuable he is.

9. Leonard Floyd

Still in a bit of a prove it spot, but if he consistently plays the way he’s shown shown flashes of, he could not only be dangerous in this spot, but he could climb up the lineup pretty quickly.

10. Prince Amukamara

Veteran who knows he’s there to do a job and turn the lineup over. His speed and ball skills make him a threat.

11. Buster Skrine

Another newcomer, let’s see what he’s got at the bottom of the order.


1. Taylor Gabriel   *Anthony Miller

We can all agree there’s no reason for Miller, a guy who dislocated his shoulder multiple times to be swinging a bat amiright?? Miller has the Willie Mayes Hayes swag you want from the leadoff man when healthy tho.

As for ‘Turbo’ Taylor Gabriel, of course you’re putting a guy who’s been clocked at 23 mph at the top of the lineup.

2. Tarik Cohen

Perfect spot for the swiss army knife of the offense. Could lay down a bunt and beat it out, move the runner, or even hit one to the gap and clear the bases.

3. Mitch Trubisky

The obvious spot for the leader of the offense and Akiem Hicks’ pick (outside himself) to win the home run derby part of this event. Let’s just hope he breaks out the punky QB headband and sunglasses look again this weekend.

4. Kyle Long

The most veteran member of the offensive line is there to protect the QB. Whether or not he’s even in the lineup, if anyone goes high and tight on # 10, better believe they’ll answer to #75.

5. Cody Whitehair

Some more muscle in the middle of the order. Has made it clear he’s good with moving around the lineup if the coaches think it’s best for the team.

6. Allen Robinson

Based on what we saw in the playoff game, he could be on his way to putting up big numbers anywhere in the batting order. Definitely a guy you want up late with the game on the line.

7. Charles Leno

Flies under the radar at one of the most important positions in football. If a pitcher thinks he’s in the clear after getting past Robinson, Leno will be there to throw a big block into that thinking.

8. Trey Burton / Adam Shaheen

When healthy, they provide some pop towards the bottom of the lineup. Let’s have Anthony Miller ready as the designated runner if these guys can get on base.

9. Bobby Massie

The ultimate team guy as he showed by signing a team friendly deal to stay in Chicago much earlier in the offseason than he had to.

10. James Daniels

As the new man in the middle on the offensive line, the burden falls on him to turn the lineup over and set the table for the speedy top of the order.

11. Mike Davis

Good spot to start for this new addition. Could easily see him towards the top of the lineup if he produces the way Matt Nagy & company thinks he can.

The defense has been ahead of the offense for pretty much the entire Pace/Nagy regime. But if Matt Nagy is involved, there’s sure to be no shortage of hidden ball tricks, squeezes and other trick plays with awesome names, so I might have to give a slight edge to the offense in this game.