Interior pass rush shortage could trump Bears need at safety

Interior pass rush shortage could trump Bears need at safety
April 23, 2014, 2:15 pm
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As the 2013 draft unfolded, with six offensive linemen going in the first 11 picks, Bears general manager Phil Emery’s options at a priority position were shrinking. The Bears wanted a guard and no-brainers Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina and Alabama’s Chance Warmack were gone in the top 10.

When the Bears’ turn came at No. 20, Emery did not hesitate on Kyle Long, an athletic but relatively inexperienced guard from Oregon. Notably perhaps, the NFL generally agreed with Emery, selecting no guards or tackles in the next 45 picks before Detroit selected guard Larry Warford.

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This draft, Emery will be in the market for a disruptive interior pass rusher to compete and complement Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins in particular. Again, his options may be alarmingly limited, even at No. 14, to the point where he and the Bears may not be able to pass on the likes of Pitt’s Aaron Donald even with a seeming bigger void at safety.

“When you look at some of the guys after the top three or four,” said ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper, “I don’t think a lot of these defensive tackles are going to go [high]. You need pass rushers; some of these guys are not giving you that.”

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Those “guys” will include Ra’Shede Hageman from Minnesota and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan. But Kiper is not convinced that either will give the Bears what they need from a young defensive tackle, particular at No. 14 in the first round.

“Hegeman would be a good fit for New England [No. 29],” Kiper said. “You look at the athletic ability, the way he can bat down passes and track down [runners] to the sideline. You look at the endurance and playing four quarters but I think New England, maybe even Seattle at 32.”

Opinions have varied widely on Jernigan, from some analysts rating him a top-15 pick on down into the second round. Part of the concern is where he fits and what he can do as far as getting to quarterbacks.

“A little disappointed in Jernigan because he’s not the pass rusher that you need to be,” Kiper said. “What scheme he fits; he’s not a 3-4 guy, not necessarily a guy who can get into the backfield as a 4-3 guy, and not a nose tackle.”