Amobi Okoye and Henry Melton
This week’s Chicago Bears note of importance, is surrounding the Bears defense and how well Brian Urlacher and his knee and will hold up in the season opener. Urlacher’s knee has been the talk of the preseason and has overshadowed the influx of pass rushers up front.
Everyone should know that what makes any defense successful in the NFL is how much pressure you can get on the quarterback.
After a season in which the Bears ranked near the bottom in sacks per pass attempt, they needed to dramatically improve their pass rush from a year ago. Israel Idonije’s production began to decline and the Bears had no real depth behind Julius Peppers and Idonije. The success of the defense relied too heavily on Pepper's pass rush production, and it was apparent an upgrade was needed.
When new general manager Phil Emery arrived he made it his goal to enhance the talent on the Bears' defensive line. He added Shea McClellin with the team's first pick in April's draft, and Amobi Okoye is back to bolster the interior pass rush. The Bears have an even better interior pass rush threat with Nate Collins serving as the fifth DT.
The Bears are focusing on putting their four best pass rushers out there at any one time, and they’ve done that with speed. On nickel situations the Bears can rotate in either Okoye or Idonije and bring in McClellin’s speed off the edge.
Idonije looks like he’s ready to have one of his best seasons in Chicago after putting together one of the best training camps of his career. Idonije racked up 2.5 sacks against the Redskins in Week 2 of the preseason and appears to be in better shape.
McClellin is ideally suited to be a situational pass rusher. More often than not, that will be in the nickel.
Chicago’s defense spent about 50 percent of the time in their nickel package during the 2011 season.
That much time spent out of their regular 4-3 defense meant they had to counter teams with more speed in their front four. Now, the Bears go two deep at all four positions on the line for the first time in a long time.
Henry Melton, Okoye, Collins and Idonije can rush from the nickel DT spot, while Peppers, McClellin, Corey Wootton and Cheta Ozougwu rush with speed off the edge.
That eight man rotation will ensure the Bears are healthy and fresh along the defensive line deep into the season. Plus if there are any injuries, there won’t be much of a drop in production because the influx of talent is evident up front.
The expectation should be that the Bears get more out of their pass rush and that alone will likely make the defense that much better in 2012.