The biggest change to come on the team this offseason was the acquisition of former Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers should help ignite the pass rush for the Bears and make this unit feared in the eyes of quarterbacks. Yet another big change came when the Bears released long time starter Alex Brown in a move that not only saved them money but opened up the doors for Mark Anderson to become the starter. Many feel that the release of Brown was a mistake and perhaps they are right.
(Please remember that we covered Israel Idonije with the defensive tackles)
Anderson had a big rookie season but fell off after that and clearly hasn’t been the same player. In 2009, Anderson played in all 16 games starting two. He recorded 28 total tackles with 22 solo and six assisted. He also recorded three and a half sacks. At the time that this is being written, Anderson has not signed his free agent tender but that is just a moot point right now as he is sure to be back with the Bears and will attempt to have a revival of sorts in hopes that he can get back to playing the way that he did just a few short seasons ago.
Peppers comes to Chicago after having a solid career in Carolina with the Panthers. In 2009, Peppers ended up playing in all 16 games starting 14 of those games. He registered 42 total tackles with 36 solo and six assisted. He had a total of ten and a half sacks with five passes defended, two interceptions with one returned for a touchdown and five forced fumbles.
Needless to say, Pepper’s production was much better than any of the defensive ends that the Bears had on the team in 2009 and he should be able to bring that production to the Bears in 2010. Hopes are high that he will bring the same intensity he had in Carolina to the Bears and help make the defense much better.
Corey Wootton is one of the newest Bears having been drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and Chicago has a lot of faith that the rookie will come into training camp fully healed from the knee surgery that he had in the offseason and will be ready to contribute. Granted, all rookies come in with a huge learning curve and we won’t expect Wootton to be good right away but he has the potential to be a great one. He should have a good career in Chicago.
Henry Melton spent the 2009 season on injured reserve but is poised to contribute in 2010 thanks to the Bears need to keep a good rotation of defensive ends going. However, with the drafting of Wootten, the Bears may now have a glut of talent at the position and one of these guys may end up losing out. Will it be Melton? It’s possible because the Bears know he has an injury history and they aren’t still sure what he can do yet. So, Melton will have to have a great training in order to stay with the team.
The Bears hope to get a lot of mileage out of their defensive ends this season and as long as Peppers plays like he has in the past (with a lot of inspiration), Anderson can get his 2006 form back and Wootten can contribute then there should be no problem with the Bears pass rush in 2010. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli finally has a good group that he can work with and this group could be one of the best in the NFL when it’s all said and done.