Richard Dent espoused his “Rule of Three,” that nearly all truly great defenses had three superior pass rushers, or at least the componentry to generate serious pressure from three points at all times. His references:
“Fearsome Foursome:” Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen.
“Steel Curtain:” Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White.
“Purple People Eaters:” Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page.
’85 Bears: Dent, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael.
The 2013 Bears are looking for their third. Henry Melton and Julius Peppers are in place. Is the third Corey Wootton, who collected seven sacks in a breakout 2012? Or is it Shea McClellin, drafted to be the Bears’ version of Clay Matthews/DeMarcus Ware/Charles Haley?
The question of whether McClellin or Wootton will start Sunday at left end has overshadowed the imperative that the Bears in fact need both individuals to become the true third leg of the great-defense triad.
Because if both McClellin and Wootton take next steps in their relatively young careers, the Bears may in fact be sitting on something special, with a defense able to blitz when it wants to rather than because it has to.
“We need them both,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “They’re working hard and competing, knowing that we need them both to play at a high level for us. It’s been a good camp and going into the preseason games and until now, it’s been a good atmosphere for both of those guys, good environment, expectations high.”
In passing situations, Wootton has moved inside to defensive tackle and McClellin lined up to his outside, with the capability of dropping into short coverage as well.
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The Bears were 5-2 last season when they collected three or more sacks, losing only to Green Bay twice despite sacking Aaron Rodgers a combined eight times in two meetings.
Last season the Bengals were 10-6 overall but 3-4 when quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked three or more times.
A problem for the Bengals is that left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the first Cincinnati offensive lineman voted to a Pro Bowl since 2006, is still not recovered from offseason knee surgery. Anthony Collins, a sometimes starter, has gone all preseason at left tackle and now is tasked with dealing with Peppers.
"He’s still the best," Collins said via ESPN.com. "33 [years old], 21, he’s still Julius Peppers. So you've got to man up. Point blank, period."