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Bears need better defensive picks with Ruskell in foursome

Bears personnel boss Tim Ruskell.

Bears personnel boss Tim Ruskell.

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Updated: August 1, 2011 12:18AM

Don’t look now, but the Bears’ version of the Tampa-2 defense has transformed into a Tampa-4, at least in terms of key decisionmakers in the draft. General manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith added Rod Marinelli, now the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, a couple of years ago. Personnel boss Tim Ruskell came on board nearly a year ago. Ruskell will be helping run the draft for the first time this weekend.

Here’s hoping he’s the missing ingredient in helping improve the Bears, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Despite running a scheme that has fallen out of favor leaguewide, which means the Bears are looking at a different pool of talent than other teams, the strike ratio during the Angelo/Smith partnership has been awful. Oddly, Angelo was a better at drafting defensive players before Smith arrived despite the seeming advantage the two should share by working off a different blueprint than other teams.

Together, the two men have selected 34 players, with just 12 remaining on the team. That dozen includes Chris Harris, who was drafted here, but traded to Carolina before being brought back for last season; Devin Hester, drafted as a cornerback, although he’s really a return ace turned wide receiver, and all three guys from last year’s rookie class — Major Wright, Corey Wooten and Joshua Moore.

Most damning is that just two of the aforementioned 34 players were primary starters last year. The starters were the safety tandem of Harris and Danieal Manning, who could be an unrestricted free agent, depending on the outcome of the court cases revolving around the lockout.

Can a guy like Ruskell, who has been removed from Angelo for nearly a decade, but was trained by the Bears boss, bring a fresh set of eyes and ideas to the process?

‘‘We had a sign in the draft room for all of us to look at. It said if everybody is thinking alike, there’s not much thinking going on,’’ Angelo said. ‘‘The goal isn’t to get people to patronize your thinking. The goal is to stimulate your thinking, get honest opinions, independent thinking, but obviously based on research. We’re not poll takers. We feel good about that. We’ve been together a long time. .  .  . The commonality, it helps.’’

Ruskell said the Bears’ brain trust doesn’t always see things the same way and that helps in the discussion of individual players.

‘‘No, we don’t,’’ Ruskell said. ‘‘That’s been what was great about when Jerry and I worked together before, and working with Lovie and working with Rod. But it’s done in such a professional way. Everybody has their say, and we’re open to: ‘OK, I didn’t look at it that way, let’s look at the film again with that perspective.’

‘‘I think that’s healthy, and that’s a good thing. That’s where our success in Tampa came out of. A lot of adversity early. A lot of things didn’t go our way. As Jerry likes to say, we survived our mistakes. But we learned from them. When we finally got together with the coaching staff and implemented that philosophy with what we were trying to do personnel wise, the thing kind of took off.’’

Everyone knows the Bears are in dire need of help on the offensive line, especially if they want to open up the their offense with the five-step and seven-step drops that Mike Martz likes to employ. The Bears may take the best tackle they can find at No. 29,
but they don’t really need a right tackle. They have players who can line up at that position. They need a left tackle, maybe two of them if they want to open up the passing game.

One league source with a stellar track record for predicting the Bears’ drafts said the defensive coaching staff will be pressuring Angelo and Ruskell to take a cornerback. But if it is not an offensive tackle, the Bears will be content to select a defensive tackle, perhaps after trading down into the second round. The guys they are projected to be considering come with risks. Marvin Austin missed a season after being caught in the middle of the NCAA investigation into illegal inducements from agents, including taking trips arranged by former assistant coach John Blake. Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson didn’t play against top-level talent.

If the Bears do decide to trade down, they won’t be talking to teams until about five picks before their No. 29 selection. They might not have an offer they like until they are on the clock. The quarterback class will be key to what they do because the more who are taken, the more likely the Bears will get a player the want at that spot.

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