Bears’ defense is helping Trestman’s offense evolve
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter September 4, 2013 9:22PM
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Updated: September 5, 2013 11:10AM
It might be the biggest test rookie guard Kyle Long faces in a season full of them. But Long believes he’s prepared to face Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, arguably the best at his position, on Sunday.
And he thanks the Bears’ defense for it.
“I’ll be lining up against [Atkins] a lot,’’ Long said. ‘‘It will be a good opportunity. Luckily, we have great guys we practice against every day, and it gets us ready to go for Sundays.”
The Bears admittedly didn’t show much during the preseason when it came to all the formations, personnel groupings and play calls that will be used offensively. But everything’s in play in practice.
And it’s in practice where Long is tested by Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Corey Wootton. It’s in practice where the offense is learning what it can and can’t do. The Bears’ defense, a turnover-inducing machine, is helping coach Marc Trestman’s offense evolve.
“It’s helped a lot because we’re playing against the best every day, and we see the problems we can cause or the issues that would come up that we can’t get off of cards or repping against the seconds because we’re not going ones on ones,” Trestman said. “So the competition part of it does help us determine the direction that we’re going because we’re seeing it against the best that we bring defensively.”
It’s all about going starters on starters under Trestman. It’s a break from the past, and the players seemingly enjoy the increased competition.
“The good thing about this year is that we’re going ones on ones a lot actually, which is nice because during the season, we used to go the second group against the ones,” said Wootton, who is at defensive tackle in the nickel package. “We’re trying to work them every day just to get them prepared for the games.
“[Long and right tackle Jordan Mills] were saying that from the live action they’ve had [in the preseason], it’s been harder in practice just with the way that we work, the tempo and how hard we’re going against them.”
The Bears’ defense is learning, too. It’s learning which blitzes, packages and coverages can be used against a multifaceted offense that uses similar concepts to the ones employed by some of the top-ranked offenses across the league.
They’re also facing talented players in receiver Brandon Marshall, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte, an offensive line with new blocking schemes and a quick-decision offense designed to get the most out of quarterback Jay Cutler.
“They know how to attack defenses,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “It helps us because we’re constantly under attack, and we’re constantly trying to attack those guys.
“It’s a good scheme. They’re going to challenge people. They’ve got different ways to get guys the ball. Everyone on defense is at the point of attack on every play. You don’t know exactly where the ball is going. We’ve got to play honest on a daily basis.”
Every individual battle helps.
“The offense is definitely stretching the defense, and we’re definitely stressing the offense out,” safety Chris Conte said. “It’s been challenging. There’s a lot of good give-and-take.”