Best Bears pass rushers: Dent is not at the top

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Best Bears pass rushers: Dent is not at the top

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Posted 4:18 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

With the selection of Richard Dent in the Hall of Fame Class of 2011, the NFL electors acknowledged the accomplishments of the most destructive force on the greatest single defense in NFL history. Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary preceded Dent into the Hall but no one preceded Dent into backfields.

But was Dent the best pass rusher in franchise history?

CSNChicago.com combed fact books, available video and other sources to arrive at the top three pass rushers in the history of the NFLs charter franchise. The first two were easy. After that.

The guidelines are for pure pass rusher, not simply the best defensive linemen, although in the cases of Nos. 1-2, they also were the two best ever at the defensive end position. The evaluations also factored in the level of pass rush achieved by players also tasked with playing the run first. Many pass rushers were loosed on quarterbacks without regard for wholistic defense. Bears rushmen were not.

1. Doug Atkins

Big Man was nearly as notable in Bears lore for his antics and tweakings of Papa Bear as for that he did on the field.

But Atkins, like Dent, was the epitome of a player capable of being a dominant player in any era. Atkins was 6-8 and played between 260-280 pounds, with enough athleticism (he went to Tennessee on a basketball scholarship) to have literally hurdled a crouching New York Giants left tackle Roosevelt Brown, also in the Hall of Fame, on the way to sacking Y.A. Tittle.

Atkins was the Julius Peppers of his era; Peppers (6-7, 283) was good enough to be a reserve on the North Carolina basketball team.

NFL Network ranked Atkins No. 9 on its list of All-Time Pass Rushers (although the second half of the list approaches laughable for including Michael Strahan and Mark Gastineau and not Dent). He is No. 1 on CSNChicago.coms list of All-Time Bears Pass Rushers.

2. Richard Dent

The Colonels sack total (137.5) was only a portion of his greatness, which was not to be measured in Pro Bowls (four). He was a superb all-around force on the edge of a defense that was among the best ever against the run as well as obliterating quarterbacks.

Dent was a student of his craft as well as his opponents and mastered techniques that combined with a freakish speed in a pass rusher who was a mismatch against all but a few left tackles of his era.

3. (Tie) Steve McMichael, Julius Peppers

McMichael was the Bears equivalent of John Randle, the undersized Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame defensive tackle, with McMichael amassing 92.5 career sacks despite playing much of his career in a two-gap scheme. He put up nine seasons of seven or more sacks and set the standard for interior pass rushers in Chicago. He is what the Bears can only wish Tommie Harris had become.

Peppers has had just one Chicago season, making his inclusion a recognition of both what he has been and what he is the focal point of opposing blocking schemes. As with Atkins and Dent, if the tackle assigned to Peppers is left on his own, Peppers is virtually unblockable.

First alternate: Rosevelt Colvin

Trip was a fourth-round selection in the 1999 draft out of Purdue and for the period of a couple years was unquestionably the leading edge force in Chicago. He collected 10-12 sacks in both 2001 and 2002, making him the first Bear since Dent to post double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons.

What made Colvins production particularly remarkable was that he was a strong-side linebacker in the Bears two-gap 4-3 scheme under Greg Blache and Dick Jauron and was not an every-down pass rusher.

Colvin left via free agency for New England in 2003 but the body of work in his early years earned him inclusion on the Bears All-Decade Team along with Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.

Bears footnote: Colvin beat out Urlacher for the starting strong-side linebacker spot in 2000 after coaches had given 54 the job on draft day.

Honorable mention (Nos. 5-10)

Dan Hampton, Mike Hartenstine, Alex Brown, Ed Sprinkle, Brian Urlacher, Doug Buffone.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.