Trestman on Bears’ woeful defense: ‘It’s wide open’
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter February 20, 2014 9:33PM
Updated: February 21, 2014 2:36AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Defense?
When it comes to the Bears’ 14th overall pick May 8, general manager Phil Emery just might have more offense in mind.
“I know at 14, I’m going to be sitting there, and there are going to be a lot of offensive playmakers on the board,” Emery said. “This is a deep draft in offensive playmakers, and I’m sure my peers recognize that.”
Consider Emery’s statement a sly move during a time when draft secrets are guarded like Fort Knox. It’s obvious the Bears are remaking a woeful defense.
On Thursday, with the NFL Scouting Combine as the backdrop, Emery and coach Marc Trestman offered some insight into their plans, including their confidence in defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the addition of experienced assistant coaches on defense and Shea McClellin’s move to linebacker.
“It’s wide open this year,” Trestman said. “Everything’s on the table in terms of where we’re going defensively.”
Some aspects will remain the same. Emery said the base defense mainly will be a 4-3, one-gap scheme much like it has been in the past.
But it won’t strictly be limited to that — actually, far from it. Emery said the Bears could employ a “wide variety of alignments” with their base being a 4-3 front.
This will be a defense that develops and changes as free agents and draft picks fill out the roster — and the draft will be “defensive-oriented,” Trestman said.
“To lock ourselves in and be so narrow-minded that this is what we’re going to be when we don’t have the players to get it done would not be [wise],” Trestman said.
Here’s what’s known at the moment:
◆ Tucker had autonomy within the parameters of Lovie Smith’s old defense last season, Trestman said. But in 2014, it’ll be different. The language will change — Trestman called it “wide open” — with new defensive assistants having experience running 3-4 fronts.
“They’re meeting to learn more about their styles and the pre-existing defense and where we can go with our existing players, knowing that there’s going to be a lot of change,” Trestman said.
◆ Three new assistants — defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, linebackers coach Reggie Herring and assistant line coach Clint Hurtt — add stronger voices as well as schematic flexibility.
The Bears wanted “experienced coaches who have had numerous stays and stops and positive experiences running 4-3, 3-4, multiple-front defenses,” Emery said.
◆ Lance Briggs is the only guaranteed starter at linebacker. McClellin and Jon Bostic will compete at middle and strong-side linebacker.
◆ McClellin’s move to linebacker won’t prevent him from being a pass rusher. In fact, it’ll be quite the opposite.
“We want to put him in position where he can make more plays overall,” Emery said.
◆ Emery and Trestman mentioned veteran D.J. Williams, who’s coming off a chest injury and has an expiring deal, as possible competition at linebacker.
◆ The Bears are on the record saying they’d like to keep defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Charles Tillman, who are pending free agents.
◆ Maligned safety Chris Conte is expected to compete for and keep his starting spot.
“My vision for him is that he does compete and win it,” Emery said. “I’d love to be talking to him about an extension.”
◆ Defensive end Julius Peppers (and his $18.2 million cap hit) remains under contract, but it’s still unclear whether he’ll definitely be a part of the 2014 defense. The Bears have limited cap space.
And behind it all is the confidence Trestman and Emery have in Tucker, who will oversee the development of the new defense.
“We felt we had to do some things,” Trestman said, “but the starting point was we felt Mel could lead and coach the defense.”