New coordinator Mel Tucker keeping Bears’ defense in a similar mode
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org April 17, 2013 10:46PM
Updated: April 17, 2013 11:49PM
With a noticeable grin, coach Marc Trestman strolled into the circle of reporters that new Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker had just left and asked a question of his own.
‘‘What did Mel say?’’ Trestman joked.
In all seriousness, Tucker is projecting messages to the defensive players not unlike what they got from the previous staff, Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli. Only two days of on-the-field work have been completed, but Tucker, a veteran coordinator, is stressing similar points and coaching in similar ways as those before him.
It’s all part of his plan to keep the Bears’ defense at the level it was at last season and in years before.
‘‘Mel Tucker came in and he learned our system and really allows us to play fast like we did last year because we don’t have to learn a new system and think a lot,’’ free safety Chris Conte said. ‘‘We can just transition right into getting back to football and getting back to the basics and focus on playing fast and going after the ball like we do best.’’
It’s evident that players have taken to Tucker, especially younger ones such as Conte, defensive tackle Henry Melton and defensive end Shea McClellin, who figure to be with the Bears for years. Tucker said he would keep the principles and terminology of the defense the same when he was introduced, and he’s been true to his word.
‘‘He’s a great guy, and I think he’s definitely a player’s coach,’’ Conte said. ‘‘He wants the best for his players, and he’s going to put us in the right position to be great. He kind of preaches the same stuff that was preached before. We’re going to go after the ball, be aggressive and get turnovers.’’
McClellin called Tucker ‘‘straightforward’’ and a coach who takes no excuses. Melton highlighted Tucker’s individuality in light of the coaching aspects he has maintained.
‘‘I like him,’’ Melton said. ‘‘He’s not trying to be somebody he’s not. He’s not going to try to come in here like he’s Rod. He’s going to be his own guy, and I like him for that. I’m excited.’’
Tucker will add his own nuisances and tricks to the defense. It’s expected, actually.
‘‘He’s going to put his spin on things and his take,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘But he’s going to try to use all the positive elements that we have and have a system that’s flexible to use the speed to the type of players that we’ve got on the field here.
‘‘We’ve got a good group of guys. It’s very apparent they’re not only fast, they’re smart. After two days, [they have been] extremely cooperative in the transition period [and] extremely cooperative in leadership, not just by the guys who have been here a long time but from guys who have not been around for very long on both ends of it.’’
The biggest changes — and challenges — come at linebacker. Lance Briggs will handle the calls, while veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson replace Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach.
Again, it helps that things remain basically the same.
‘‘We want them to hit the ground running,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘I’ve been in a lot of different schemes, and a lot of it is just terminology, so we’re going to take it and try to move it forward down the road.’’
Perhaps, the biggest difference for him is that he has a defense full of Pro Bowlers at his disposal, unlike his previous few seasons as
the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coordinator.
‘‘What you see on tape is what you see in practice,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘They play fast, they play physical, and obviously they play that way because they practice that way. . . . Right out of the box, they’re just playing faster, running. They’re excited, love the game and they play for each other.’’
And now for Tucker.
Even Trestman was happy to see Tucker’s defense come up to force two turnovers against his offense during practice Wednesday.
‘‘The defense caught two balls going their way, which was good,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We attacked the ball and did well.’’