Chicago Bears coach, Rod Marinelli changed the sign on the meeting room door from "defensive line" to "rush men." That's the mentality Marinelli, who's known as one of the best D-line coaches in the league. His empowering coaching strategy aim's to get more speed and aggressiveness out of this blend of veterans and youth. The overall goal for 2009 is not to defend, but to disrupt, always be on the move and go up field to pursue.
This is a defensive line group that has tremendous talent and depth. The success of the defensive package depends on effective pass rushing, which it lacked last year. With the exception of Tommie Harris, the defense did not produce to the level of play it needed in 2008. The front four could not get pressure on opposing QB's, witch forced the linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage, and the outside backers could not flare and block the quick slant throwing lanes. Chicago could not blitz when they wanted, instead blitzed, because they were forced to.
The gap-oriented line depends on player assignments, containment, and the simplest things are the most important things. Chicago's defensive package relies on production from its core positions and players. One of the most important player positions in this package is the three technique tackle.
With a productive and healthy Tommie Harris the Bears have one of the better three techniques in the league. Harris performed better than he was credited for last year. When Harris is going well, he's a disruptive force and makes those around him better. He is the under tackle in this system. Harris is a creator of sorts, for himself and others playing with him. In a one-on-one, nobody can stop him. He’s one of the key players in the whole defense package, and the Bears are counting on more from him in 2009.
The interior line production for 2009 starts with Dusty Dvoracek, who has battled numerous injury issues as he has missed 35 games during his three-year career with the Bears. When Dvoracek is healthy, he is outstanding on the interior of the line and does the job to plug up the running lanes.
Rookie Jarron Gilbert, who led the nation in tackles for a loss in college last year, will probably be used extensively on passing downs at both tackle and defensive end depending on the situation and the opponent.
Marcus Harrison, who had an outstanding rookie season impressed the coaching staff. His playing proved his determination and drive, that could make him a Pro-Bowl caliber player in the future. Harrison will be in the rotation and will continue to impress the Bears coaching staff. Anthony Adams made a good impression as well last season and he will also be in the rotation.
Defensive ends were not productive in 2008. The Bears are counting on new line coach Rod Marinelli to bring the best out of a group that includes Alex Brown, Mark Anderson, Adewale Ogunleye, and Israel Idonije.
Ogunley is reported to be in tremendous shape, coming in to the 2009 season. He's a pass rusher with size that he could line up over right tackles and with better coaching direction should show improvement in his production. Ogunleye has seemed to have dropped off a little, as he has not had double digit sacks for a few years. Coach Rod Marinelli stated in a recent interview, "He’s lean and he’s smart. He’s a 60-plus sack guy in his career. We’ve got to get him back up there and get those numbers again."
Alex Brown, who over the past three seasons can't seem to break through and show his pro-bowl caliber Defensive End ability, looks to break that cycle. Coach Marinelli is the magic formula Brown needs to become one of the best pass rush specialist in the league again. Brown always goes hard, and plays with passion, despite the situation the team is in, he plays good football.
Mark Anderson fell off the map since his stellar rookie season. Marinelli will work to develop better inside moves to be an effective pass rusher for Chicago's scheme. The question is, can Marinelli get 2006 production out of Anderson for the 2009 season? I have to say yes, and look for Anderson to be contributor for this team.
Israel Idonije has lost some weight and is primed to take over as a backup at one of the defensive end positions in 2009. After the signing of a contract extension, Idonije comes in poised to play and is arguably one of the most athletic players on the roster. He had a quiet 2008 season but proved his value time and again in being one of the more solid players on the team. His ability to play both tackle and end makes him a very valuable commodity. Look for Idonije to remain a valuable backup on the team, and contribute not only on defense but on special teams.
Henry Melton is an option back-up at Defensive End. The Bears drafted defensive end Henry Melton in the fourth round, however, historically ends rarely make a big contribution as a rookie. Not to say that he will not, but it is not projected at this point.
The Bears have always had one of the NFL’s top-notch defenses year in and year out, although last season was not up to par for the Bears. They were 16th in points allowed with 21.9 points per game, eighth versus the run allowing 3.7 Yards Per Carry, and they were 6th against the pass allowing 6.5 Yards Per Attempt.
One way to measure a team’s success the next season is to review how many of the games they lost were close in the previous season. Of the Bears seven losses last season, six of those losses were by a touchdown or less and three of those games were by a field goal or less.
The 2009 Chicago Bears defense line will get back to form and dominate in the NFL. If the Bears defensive line unit can stay healthy, which is extremely important, I believe they will greatly improve their pass rush with the coaching Rod Marinelli.
The players seem to have a chip on their shoulders. They have something to prove, and all because of Marinelli's empowering coaching strategy.