Bears begin installing new alignments in 'flexible' scheme

Bears begin installing new alignments in 'flexible' scheme
May 16, 2014, 2:45 pm

The Bears are staying with a 4-3 as their base defense and traditionally have used one defensive tackle as a “nose” working one center-guard gap, and the other as a three-technique shaded to the other guard’s outside edge.

But new line coach Paul Pasqualoni, during a visit by defensive tackle Ego Ferguson to Halas Hall, talked to Ferguson about being able to work as a two-technique, meaning head-up on a guard.

It was a small early look at some of the changes taking place in the Bears’ defense, beyond simply some new faces, who were busy learning the NFL and a changing Bears defense.

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That also suggests at least another element of “flexible,” the watch-word for this season And it could put real pressure squarely on reigning nose tackle Stephen Paea regardless of whether Ferguson is head-up on a guard like a “zero technique” nose tackle would be on a center, or working a gap in the Bears’ iteration of a nose tackle.

“We’ll have the flexibility to line them up [in multiple spots],” Pasqualoni said. “We train the guys in all the techniques and alignments up front. Even though it was the first day, each of those guys aligned in about every alignment you could align in [Friday], whether it was in individual or group period.

“So they were exposed to everything, from a stance to a footwork standpoint. We like to do that this time of year just so we have a good evaluation of what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are.”

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The Bears thought enough of Ferguson to use their second-round pick, 51st overall, on the LSU tackle, who was a dominant run-stopper in the SEC but now is tasked with more.

“I’m doing a little bit of everything,” Ferguson said. “They’ve got me playing all over the place so I’m just trying to learn. But I’m getting used to it.”

The Bears followed the Ferguson choice with the selection of Will Sutton, defensive tackle from Arizona State, in the third round. That puts a young three-technique in place, creating a roster squeeze behind starter Jeremiah Ratliff.

Sutton has played primarily the under-tackle on his way to two consecutive Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year awards.

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“I’m a three-technique,” Sutton said simply, but mentioned the possibility of switching to nose tackle and Ferguson at three-technique.

General manager Phil Emery built for the present this offseason with the re-signings of defensive tackles Ratliff and Nate Collins. As he did with cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first-round, he also stocked for the future, selecting Ferguson and then Sutton.

Emery drafted absolutely in line with an objective of getting bigger in general, with Ferguson listed at 315 pounds, making him the biggest defensive lineman currently with the team. Sutton, more athletic and more experienced, is listed at 303 but expected to play around 295.

Ferguson also represents another Emery pick with a decided emphasis on upside rather than being a safe pick. Ferguson did not start until his junior season when he started 12 games and collected his one sack to go with 3-1/2 tackles for loss.