'Hidden season' will be crucial for Bears' new defensive line

'Hidden season' will be crucial for Bears' new defensive line
May 27, 2014, 9:00 am
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No area of the Bears’ defense needed more attention this offseason – actually, needed since mid-last season – than the defensive line.

And no area got more attention since the end of last season than the defensive line.

Because of that, no area arguably needs the 2014 “hidden season” – the offseason sessions before training camp, whether OTA’s or minicamps, many off-limits to outside observers – than the defensive line.

Those OTA’s will be underway Tuesday at Halas Hall. While the offense is largely intact from last season, from the standpoints of personnel, coaches and scheme, the defensive line is significantly different in all three of those standpoints.

“There are some significant changes in terms of the techniques that we’re going to play. How we’re going to fit the run. Some of our alignments. We’ll have some alternative fronts that we’ll play,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “I’m not sure how much of a difference you’ll see during the OTAs and things like that because we’re really going to work to the lay the foundation on our base principles and techniques, which will allow us to do pretty much anything we want to do down the road.”

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For those reasons for the Bears especially, the hidden season looms large for a position group with most players new to each other, working under new coaches and in an evolving system.

“This time of year, whether it’s college and spring ball or the NFL and minicamps or OTAs, was the greatest time for a coach because you weren’t game-planning the next opponent,” said Paul Pasqualoni, hired as the new defensive-line coach on Jan. 16. “You just go out and have some fun for all the reasons you got in this business, which was to be a teacher.

“This time of year for the player is outstanding because he has a chance to work on his tools, his craft, putting tools in your toolbox.”

Mega-changes up front

If the season began today, only one starter from the 2013 defensive line would be on the field for the opponent’s first snap – defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

POS. 2013 starter 2014 starter?
DLE Corey Wootton Lamarr Houston
3T Henry Melton Jeremiah Ratliff
NT Stephen Paea Stephen Paea
DRE Julius Peppers Jared Allen

And as far as Paea is concerned, the Bears invested their second pick in the draft in a defensive tackle projected to be a nose tackle – Ego Ferguson. Paea was the 53rd pick in the 2011 draft; Ferguson is the 51st of this year’s and roughly 20 pounds bigger than Paea, depending on the weigh-in day.

Player orientation was underway during the recent minicamp. “The pace is different as far as non-stop motor,” Ferguson said. “But LSU did a great job of preparing me for the defenses so it wasn’t as hard for me to catch on to the playbook.”