Tucker putting his stamp on Bears’ defense
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org June 12, 2013 9:39PM
Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears
Updated: July 15, 2013 7:33PM
Defensive tackle Henry Melton appeared to be out of place, but he wasn’t. Lined up against the offense, he stood among the Bears’ linebackers. His hand was nowhere near the ground. He was upright.
And then Melton, with a few steps of momentum, attacked upon the snap.
“It’s fun. It’s definitely something different,” Melton said Wednesday after the Bears’ second day of minicamp. “[Defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker] is seeing my athleticism, and he knows what I can do. We’re just testing out some things.”
And it’s a sign that Tucker is leaving his mark — installing his own tricks and plans — on the Bears’ defense.
Tucker has done a lot to keep things the same for the Bears’ defense post-Lovie Smith and post-Brian Urlacher. His decision to keep the same terminology has won over a defense filled with veterans and Pro Bowlers.
Still, Tucker, as expected, is adding his own flair to things. He likely would’ve done the same even if Urlacher had accepted the Bears’ one-year offer and taken the field on first and second downs as coach Marc Trestman suggested at the NFL owners meetings. But it’s very clear — there will be some noticeable differences to the Bears’ defense from what Lovie and Co. did.
Having Melton rush the passer from an upright position and off the line of scrimmage is only one example. Melton described it as “a little twist we’re putting on a blitz just to give a different look.”
“As long as we get a little hesitation from the quarterback, it’s a big deal,” Melton said.
Tucker looks determined to get the most out of his athletes. Melton, for instance, was a former running back.
So what other wrinkles could there be?
Defensive end Corey Wootton has moved inside for some packages, and it’s possible the Bears might use four defensive ends together at some point.
“I think Coach is trying to get the best four rushers out there,” Wootton said. “I have been working inside, especially on nickel, just trying to use my length and be able to try to make a push inside.
“I remember when the [New York] Giants had their really good season, they moved Justin Tuck inside a lot. I think we’re just trying to get different matchups and try to get the best four rushers. At times, we could have four defensive ends out there or three defensive ends.”
Translation: This isn’t going to be your father’s cover-2 defense.
“[Tucker is] just trying to mix everyone around and have everybody play every position because you never know in a game,” Wootton said. “[Free-agent defensive end Israel Idonije] used to do it. He’d go to the three-technique; he’d do it all. We’re trying to diversify everything and get looks in there, looks outside.”
Tucker said his defensive system is in place, and he’s encouraged by what he has seen from his players. He’s challenging all of them — from linebacker Lance Briggs to the rookies competing for playing time — to get better.
“You know all of our guys need to improve,” Tucker said. “As coaches and players, we talk about that each and every day, about finding ways to get better. When you play at such a high level, that’s not such an easy thing to do, to get better, but that’s the goal, and that’s what we all have to do.”
It can be said that Tucker is just experimenting with what he has, but the players have responded to all the “different looks,” as Melton put it, too.
“We’re doing a lot of the same stuff we’ve been doing, but he’s putting in a couple of wrinkles on some things,” Melton said. “It’s going to be fun.”