INDIANAPOLIS — General manager Phil Emery laid out some of the general parameters that will be involved in the Bears’ acquisitions of players via both free agency and the draft.
The real intrigue of this offseason will be to see what shape, literally, it all takes.
Too much focus has been on whether the Bears would remain a 4-3 defense or switch to a 3-4; since most 3-4 teams use a fourth defender on the line, that’s not the real issue. Coach Marc Trestman said as much last week in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Everybody wants four guys rushing to be able to inhibit the quarterback from completing a throwing motion and disrupting in the pocket, all the things that we all know,” Trestman said.
The “four” part is obvious. What kind of four is less so.
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Emery confirmed what has been apparent through and since last season, that the 4-3 structure was set. Given that the two Super Bowl teams play it, and conference-final losers New England (Rob Ninkovich) and San Francisco (Aldon Smith) use a 3-4 but with a so-called linebacker always on the line, scheme is less the issue than the players.
But Emery also gave a more thorough statement on the defensive underpinnings, one that projects to determine which and what type players the Bears will target this offseason.
“We’ll predominantly be a one-gap front,” Emery said. “We’re going to be a ‘40’ front. There will be flexibility in that front, just as [there is with] all the teams. There’s a lot of teams that run 3-4’s that run 40 fronts, nickel fronts, against nickel pass sets. So you could see us in a wide variety of alignments, but the base of it will be a 40 front.”
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It’s the “one-gap” part that should be noted. That typically points toward smaller, quicker defensive linemen assigned to control and penetrate one gap, rather that being tasked with going head-up with a blocker and having responsibility for gaps on either side. The effect of the two-gap system is that every gap theoretically has two players, whether linemen or linebackers, assigned to cover it.
“My personal preference is bigger is always better as long as you’re not sacrificing athleticism and speed,” Emery said. “This is a fast game, but it’s a very physically tough, impactful game and you need bigger bodies over time to win those matchups.”
One byproduct of moving Shea McClellin from strictly defensive end to a linebacker spot: The Bears defense just “added” a 250-pound linebacker with speed. McClellin is 15 pounds bigger than James Anderson, last year’s strong-side starter, and 10 bigger than D.J. Williams, last year’s starter in the middle.
What happens in front of those positions is the offseason key. CSNChicago.com will be looking at several of the draft prospects on the defensive line this week, with a specific eye toward their fit with what has been laid out as the overall plan for personnel in that position group.