Seahawks’ defense an effective model for Bears’ makeover

Seahawks’ defense an effective model for Bears’ makeover
January 26, 2014, 11:00 pm
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General manager Phil Emery and the Bears coaching and personnel staffs will not be using the Seattle Seahawks as a template for how they want to shape the Bears’ defense. But they could.

For what it’s worth (and it’s really not worth anything at all), the Bears have in place some of same “types” as the NFL’s No. 1 defense. Just not very many. Not many at all. Which is where Emery’s job really begins going into this offseason.

The Seahawks pose a very difficult model to emulate. Not so much from the standpoint of concepts: Notably, they put up the NFL’s No. 1 scoring and yardage defense out of a 4-3 scheme. So scheme will not be a hurdle for the Bears.

But what makes Seattle’s system intriguing is that it is a 4-3 that is in the direction the Bears already ostensibly are leaning in some areas. Operative word: “some.” Leaning is far, far from the same thing as being there.

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Line dancing

The Seahawks field three mastodons in their base front four: Red Bryant (323 pounds), Tony McDaniel (305), Brandon Mebane (311). The Bears had no tackle on their 2013 roster as big as the smallest of those three. The fourth lineman is speed rusher Chris Clemons (254 pounds, 4.5 sacks). The Bears have one of those. A couple actually. Physically, anyway.

But what the Seahawks really have is a second tier below the heavy starters package: defensive ends Cliff Avril (6-3, 260 pounds, 8.0 sacks), Michael Bennett (274 pounds, 8.5 sacks) and reserve tackle Clinton McDonald (297 pounds, 5.5 sacks).

Size clearly doesn’t matter, however, beyond just a casual point of minor comparison of the Bears to the NFL’s best. Arguably every one of the top seven Seattle defensive linemen would be immediate starters on the current Bears. “Depth” isn’t a big enough descriptor for what the Seahawks have.

How good is Seattle’s depth? Based on unofficial stats, Bennett played more snaps than any other defensive lineman, and that was less than 60 percent of Seattle opponents’ plays.

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Seattle scored a draft hit in 2013 with rush linebacker Bruce Irvin at No. 15 of the first round. That was a setback for the Bears, who had hoped to snag Irvin at No. 19 and went instead to Shea McClellin, the same size as Avril. If McClellin flourishes in an eclectic defense under coordinator Mel Tucker, the Bears will be a major step toward catching the Seahawks.

But Seattle’s overall personnel depth is such that Irvin was moved to strong-side linebacker and inserted as an outside rushman in nickel.

The short point here is that Seattle’s No. 1 pass defense is rooted in speed. That includes middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (241 pounds, 5.0 sacks), the same size as Jonathan Bostic.

An obvious issue for the Bears is that Seattle simply has a spectrum of talent that has backups who are better than the Bears’ starters. If the Bears can land Bennett in free agency, that looms as a significant single stroke that upgrades the Chicago defense, with the brother of Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, who has pledged to work on getting his sibling to Chicago.

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What will be extremely hard for the Bears to achieve is a secondary on anything close to a par with the Seahawks. As with the defensive linemen, every starter in the Seattle secondary would be an immediate starter with the Bears.

Richard Sherman is elite; fellow cornerback Brandon Browner is equal to or better than Tim Jennings. Safety Kam Chancellor pairs with Earl Thomas for a back end that the Bears hoped they had in Chris Conte and Major Wright.

Thomas was the 14th pick of the 2010 first round. The Bears have the 14th pick this draft. A safety would be a stunning Chicago selection, however, given the needs in front of that position.

For the record, the Seahawks landed Sherman in the 2011 fifth round. The Bears found last year’s nickel corner, Isaiah Frey, in the 2012 sixth round. Right idea.