How will Bears address needs with 4-3 defense?

How will Bears address needs with 4-3 defense?
February 18, 2014, 8:45 pm
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It was the assumption of many all along. The confirmation of the Bears remaining in a 4-3 base defense in 2014 came not in a quote, but a note midway through an article Tuesday afternoon on ChicagoBears.com, the team-run website.

Retaining Mel Tucker as defensive coordinator was the first sign the scheme would likely remain the same.  All but a brief period of Tucker's time running NFL defenses has come in a 4-3 setup (the lone exception being a 3-4 that was in place in Cleveland when he took over in 2009). But the 3-4 chatter intensified when Paul Pasqualoni and Reggie Herring were hired as defensive line and linebackers coaches, respectively, and both had recent NFL experience in systems that predominantly used four linebackers - Pasqualoni in Dallas, Herring in Houston. In fact, the Bears are expected to mix in a few different looks on occasion, even while planning on working a majority of the time out of that 4-3. Where those linemen set up in gaps will also be something to watch once they make their personnel moves in free agency and the draft.

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And that's been the bigger question all along - how they'll address a stack of question marks, no matter the scheme. They're in a salary cap crunch, backed into that with the Jay Cutler contract, nearly requiring a couple of veteran cuts, or renegotiation. Two linemen, two linebackers, and two defensive backs who started on Opening Day (and the first three weeks, when Tucker's defense was at its best) are headed to free agency. Throw in a handful of other rotation regulars, the uncertainty of Julius Peppers' future, Chris Conte's psyche and the Shea McClellin experiment - and the questions run deeper.

The McClellin scenario becomes even more curious now.  Based on the difficulties he's had at the point of attack his first two years, it's hard to envision him on the strong side. Lance Briggs (one contract year remaining), Jonathan Bostic, and Khaseem Greene are all more suited to the weak side. All that's left is middle linebacker (which he's never played), and standup, situational pass rusher (his most "pure" spot, though short of first-round quality to date).  As noted during their hirings, the new assistant coaches must indeed earn their money with what will be a defense-heavy draft crop.


So while the scheme question can now be set aside when Phil Emery and Marc Trestman address the non-Bears.com media for the first time in seven weeks Thursday morning at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the more important questions will continue for almost three more months, through the start of free agency next month, until draft weekend in May concludes.