December 18, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. — The new faces are plenty. The assistant coaches have changed after one season. And some terminology and schematic changes are in the discussion phases for the Bears’ defense.
But coach Marc Trestman won’t call it an overhaul.
“I don’t think that would be anywhere close to what we’re doing here,” Trestman said Wednesday during the NFL owners meetings. “We may be adding things to add more variety and flexibility as we move in and that’s really where we’re at.
“We’re still in the process of evaluating what we have and will be throughout the [organized team activities]. We want to be able to implement things and have the flexibility to get there. Those are the discussions that are ongoing.”
In other words, the Bears have a new mix with defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, safeties Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings and others now involved, but it’s a mix that is yet to step up on the field together.
It’s also a mix that will feature some promising rookies after the draft in May. The goal is to secure one or two players in the draft that can push for starting positions on defense.
It will be a defense that features different looks, but it’s a defense still figuring out what it does well.
Trestman compared the process on defense to the transformation of the offense last offseason.
After opting to keep former coach Lovie Smith’s defense in place for the most part, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has ample work to do. Tucker’s new staff, featuring linebackers coach Reggie Herring, defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni and assistant line coach Clint Hurtt, will have significant input.
“Everything has to be detailed out,” Trestman said. “It starts with stance and language. We’re still in this process of scheme evaluation, terminology [and] looking at other teams in the league. ... Post OTAs you’ll see some of the evolution.”
That might sound daunting for longtime Bears such as cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs. But Trestman said there would be some carryover from the past.
“To take it from an angle that Lance and Charles are going to have to learn all this new stuff is probably going at it in a way that I would not describe it,” said Trestman, who promised to be more involved in defensive meetings now that his offensive foundation is in place.
What has changed is the competition for players to get on the field. The veteran experience and talent added to the defensive line is significant. Trestman also expects second-year linebacker Jon Bostic to challenge D.J. Williams to start in middle, saying Briggs is the only starter penciled in at linebacker.
The Bears brought back veteran Kelvin Hayden to push promising nickel back Isaiah Frey and because “we respect what Kelvin has done before he got hurt,” Trestman said.
Having Mundy, Jennings and possibly a high draft pick to compete with maligned safety Chris Conte also will be a significant part of the unit’s development.
Trestman met with Conte last week and offered support.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help him get back on his feet so to speak and move forward,” Trestman said. “He knows he didn’t play at the level that he needs to play to be a starter in the National Football League, but he has the ability to be starter.
“I’ve seen him on tape do the right things. We saw it in  and we didn’t see it as much in . We want to get him to a place where he’s more consistent and that’s part of coaching.”
Those coaches have provided Emery’s personnel staff with the prototypes they look for in potential players.
With that in mind, Emery has been relentless in retooling his defense, which allowed nearly 400 yards per game and was last in sacks in 2013, through free agency.
But those efforts will continue in the draft. By being active in free agency, Emery has gained more flexibility for the draft. There’s a goal to get younger still in place, but one particular positional need on defense doesn’t significantly outweigh others.
“This process of rebuilding our team and in this case, the defensive side of the ball … we’ve been working very hard to do that,” Trestman said.
Of course, reaching a deal with Allen, a prolific pass rusher, was a “wow” move that provides excitement during this rebuilding phase.
“His [Bears] teammates are excited they’ve got a new teammate and that it’s Jared Allen,” Trestman said. “We got better today because of the addition of Jared Allen.”