Sometimes you just gotta enjoy the spirit of youth.
The Bears kept just five hand-on-the-ground defensive linemen on their current roster. One (Eddie Goldman) is a rookie, two (Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton) are second-year players and a fourth (Cornelius Washington) has played a total of 15 NFL games, mostly on special teams, over his first two seasons. If Jeremiah Ratliff were on the roster instead of suspended, he would have played twice as many NFL seasons (10) as the kids have games.
No matter. Intimidated by Aaron Rodgers? Mmm, not really.
“I’m just ready to get out there Sunday and show the world,” said Ferguson, then corrected himself: “Shock the world.”
He laughed, then reset reality: “But it’s just talk now. We have to do it on Sunday.”
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Do not mistake youthful bravado for lack of perspective, however.
The talk around any defense preparing for the Green Bay Packers is what if any coping mechanisms it can employ against Rodgers. The Bears have Rodgers in their mission statement, but it is another Packer who is causing concern among members of a front seven that is still in its formative stages.
Two Packers, actually. Running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks.
What Rodgers has done to the Bears is the stuff of legend. Sutton brought up the fact that the Packers lost four regular-season games last year. Three of them were games where they failed to rush for 100 total yards, failed in fact to reach 90. Lacy and Starks were non-factors. And in the fourth loss, to Buffalo, Lacy and the run game netted 158 but Rodgers was 17-for-42 for 418 yards but with a passer rating of 34.3 owing to a pair of interceptions versus zero touchdown passes.
“We know who ‘12’ is and what he can do,” Sutton said “But before we can get to him, our main thing is stopping the run. They’re a well-balanced offense and people get so caught up in ‘Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers,’ but Eddie Lacy is out there.
“You have to earn the right to rush the passer.”
If there is a specific prove-it point in the Bears’ newborn 3-4, it is whether an undersized group of linemen can stand up to the Lacys, Starks, Marshawn Lynches and Adrian Petersons.
Ferguson dropped from 315 pounds last season to 295. Sutton, once thought to be too small for a 3-4 needing linemen capable of responsibility for two gaps, has added bulk up to 304. Washington, moving from 4-3 end to playing over tackles in a 3-4, added muscle and is keeping it but at just 280 pounds. Nose tackles Goldman (334) and Jarvis Jenkins (315) are as close as the Bears have to traditional “run stuffers.”
“It’s all about technique, leverage,” Ferguson said. “Weight really doesn’t mean so much if you’re in the right position, right hand placement and using the right leverage.
“The reason why we’re so light is that a lot of us play positions and we want to be effective no matter where we’re lined up.”
And no matter where they’re lined up, “we pretty much have to play a perfect game in terms of technique,” Sutton said.