Building defenses: Bears lessons lie in Denver, Seattle

Building defenses: Bears lessons lie in Denver, Seattle
January 28, 2014, 11:45 am
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More random Bears thoughts assessing Super Bowl XLVIII...

On the continuing matter of defensive schemes, both teams in this Final play 4-3 schemes and play ones remarkably akin to what the suspicion is that the Bears will be endeavoring to do in 2014.

But the real focus in all this is the defensive line, because if you don’t have a defensive line, you don’t have a defense. The Bears can speak to that point.

[MORE: Ditka deal kept Bears from drafting Broncos' Champ Bailey]

Seattle starts three giants (Red Bryant, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane) plus a speed edge rusher, whether Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett or Chris Clemons. Avril started two games, Bennett three and Clemons 11.

Denver, with a coach in John Fox who is a career 4-3 practitioner, opens with wide-body tackles Terrance Knighton (335 pounds) and Sylvester Williams (313) and an end (Malik Jackson) at 293. On the right edge is their “little” guy, Shaun Phillips (255).

Williams is starting for injured Kevin Vickerson (328).

But here’s the rub as far as the Bears coming up defensively to the prevailing Super Bowl standard: Can the Bears realistically do what either Denver or Seattle have done to make over defenses?


Phillips came out of 3-4 scheme in San Diego. A linebacker who works as an end. Sound like anyone on the Chicago roster? But Phillips was a free-agent acquisition. So was Knighton. Williams was a No. 1 draft choice (28th overall) in last year’s draft.

[RELATED: Bears failed to execute Broncos model]

Whether the Bears have the capital and inclination to spend on free-agent upgrades. Unclear.

But here’s the good news: Jackson was Denver’s fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft. Phillips was San Diego’s fourth-rounder in 2004.


Some good news first: Bryant was a fourth-round Seahawks pick in 2008. McDaniel was a journeyman, coming through Miami and Jacksonville before landing in Seattle. He was an undrafted free agent with the Jaguars initially. Mebane was a third-round pick.

Clemons also came into the league undrafted and knocked around with Washington (twice), Cleveland, Oakland and Philadelphia before working out in Seattle.

[ALSO: Seahawks defense an effective model for Bears]

Avril was a big-ticket signing from Detroit. Bennett was a one-year signing ($5 million) this year for Seattle.

The punch line: Winning defenses can be built with seeming castoffs or draft afterthoughts. Only one of the eight defensive-line starters with these two teams was a No. 1 draft choice.

Maybe Bears general manager Phil Emery was on the right course with Sedrick Ellis and Turk McBride last offseason, seeming non-fits elsewhere with second chances in Chicago.

Last offseason was anything but boring. This year’s will be even more intriguing.