Bears DE quest turns to size matters

Bears DE quest turns to size matters
March 10, 2014, 11:30 pm
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Had Michael Bennett chosen the Bears over returning to the Seattle Seahawks, he was to have been another lighter, speed-based defensive end in the Bears’ rush quiver. It is something general manager Phil Emery has gone after as a “type” that currently includes David Bass (6-4, 256), Austen Lane (6-6, 265) and Trevor Scott (6-5, 260).

It is the type of the other defensive end that is right now an issue. The Bears are after more pass rush but they suddenly need to be sure they are not getting smaller at a spot where they can’t afford to: the “other” defensive end.

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First, the background perspective:

The Bears are not following anyone else’s template for a defensive line. But the working model in vogue includes a base front four of one smaller edge rusher (255-270 pounds) and three “massives” with some pass rush ability but primarily run-proof. The 4-3 Seahawks used that model in winning the Super Bowl; the 4-3 Denver Broncos followed the same guide reaching the Super Bowl. The No. 2-ranked Carolina Panthers’ front four had ends of 285 and 290 pounds in part because right end Greg Hardy has emerged as a Reggie-White-like pass rusher at 290 (26 sacks over the past two years).

The 3-big-1-small package is common in the better 3-4 defenses as well. San Francisco uses the 3/1 combo with their 3-4: three linemen averaging 291 pounds plus Aldon Smith (265). The front three of New Orleans’ fourth-ranked 3-4 averages 306 pounds, plus rush linebacker Junior Galette (258).

The Bears have competition for the “little-guy” role, with the three current ends plus Shea McClellin in schemed situations. They have Stephen Paea (300) and Jeremiah Ratliff (303).

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What they don’t have is heft at the fourth spot, which is expected to come open with the exit of Julius Peppers (285).

The best available option is Oakland’s Lamarr Houston, 6-3, 300 pounds, who has played both right and left ends, more at right. Houston has been one of the three “heavies” in Oakland’s front four, with Jason Hunter (270) the fourth. Not surprisingly perhaps, Ian Rappaport at NFL Network reported that the Bears were targeting Houston.