New Bears DE Austen Lane is versatile, has played for Mel Tucker
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter March 8, 2014 9:21PM
Bears defensive end Austen Lane (left) played for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2010 to 2012 and appeared in two games for the Detroit Lions in 2013. | Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Updated: April 10, 2014 6:59AM
Hailing from a small Wisconsin town where green and gold are the primary colors, new Bears defensive end Austen Lane realized he was going to hear it from Packers fans back home.
“I would say 95 percent of them were: ‘We’re happy for you, but we’re not going to be cheering for you,’ ’’ Lane said. “But I think Chicago is going to be a great fit.”
Lane, who signed a one-year contract last month, has a chance to make a defense that’s undergoing a makeover after an atrocious 2013 season. He’ll have an opportunity to prove he can fit, but so will many others.
“I’m looking forward to competing,” Lane said.
It will take free agency (the negotiating window opened Saturday) and the draft in May to remake the Bears’ defense, which coach Marc Trestman said will have a scheme built around the players. But the early additions of Lane and veteran defensive end Trevor Scott (one-year deal) might be indicators of what’s in store for the front seven.
Emery was asked at the NFL Scouting Combine what he learned from the ups and downs of his first first-round pick, Shea McClellin (19th overall in 2012), who’s moving to linebacker.
“It taught me to keep picking guys that have versatility because none of us is going to be perfect,” Emery said. “If you swing and miss on a player, you hope that they have the skill set, that they’re still competing and contributing on your team in a positive way, which Shea did.
“In terms of pure defensive ends, [it’s] probably make sure they’re a little bit longer and a little bit heavier.”
Lane (6-6, 265 pounds) and Scott (6-5, 260 pounds) are bigger than McClellin and also have the versatility Emery covets.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Scott’s adaptability in 2012. He noted Scott’s work at defensive end, outside linebacker and in pass-rush packages.
Scott spent last season with the Buccaneers after playing for the Patriots (2012) and Raiders (2008 to 2011).
Coming out of Murray State in 2010, Lane said teams were looking at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. For training camp last year with the Chiefs, he bulked up to 280 pounds and worked at defensive end in their 3-4 scheme. Appearing in two games for the Lions last season, he was asked to drop into coverage.
“Obviously, I’m built like a 4-3 defensive end,” Lane said, “but I can also play a three-technique if they need me to. And if they need me to drop back in coverage, I’m used to doing that.”
Lane also knows what it’s like to play for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. They were together for three seasons with the Jaguars before Tucker left for the Bears and he was released.
“If you look back at 2011, we were ranked No. 6 in the NFL in total defense,” Lane said. “I can guarantee that 95 percent of the people in this country couldn’t name five starters on that team in Jacksonville.”
Lane expects Tucker to install a similar scheme, extolling its simplicity but also mentioning the use of stunts, blitzing linebackers and defensive ends who occasionally line up in the wide-nine technique (outside a tight end or far outside the offensive tackle).
It’s a defense that will develop as more players are added.
“[Tucker’s] just fun to play for,” Lane said. “And you want to have guys on defense who are having fun.”
Lane, who was born in Evanston and lived in the area for a couple of years before moving to Iola, Wis., can’t wait for another run with Tucker.
“I think I bring a lot of intensity on the field,” Lane said. “I’m usually the guy who’s going to be shouting on the field.”