Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted: 9:49 a.m.
By John Mullin
The debate started when the Bears parted company with Tommie Harris: that the need for a dominant defensive tackle was officially acute and well could supersede the quest for help on the offensive line, whether in free agency or the draft.
A dominant player right there, especially for our defense, it makes our defense tick, coach Lovie Smith says. It's the reason why we paid our defensive tackle more money than we have any other players on our team. So it's very important to have a disruptive guy there that can cause havoc that will make teams double team him and things like that.
Right now there is no free agency, although there will be at some point. But the urgency at defensive tackle, Im not so sure, for a couple of related reasons.
One is history. The shock of the Alex Brown release last offseason was exorcised for good when Israel Idonije seized the moment and a starting job at defensive end on the way to eight sacks, one more than Brown posted in his best season (2006).
The second is Henry Melton. The coaching staff was right about Idonije last year (maybe not so right about Mark Anderson, but ok) and there is a growing internal buzz building around Melton.
Without the benefit of a formal Bears offseason strength and conditioning program, Melton has quietly built himself up to a ripped 294 pounds and is still the athlete who runs a 4.6 40, was fast enough to be on special teams last season, and was a running back through his freshman year at Texas.
Melton was slotted in the end rotation last year and had 2.5 sacks in spot duty, but the added muscle is the best indication of where he and the Bears see his future.
Considering that only Julius Peppers (23) had more QB pressures last season than Meltons nine, if coaches see Melton as the 2011 version of Idonije, you can understand the thinking.
The Bears have selected at least one defensive lineman within the first four rounds in eight of the nine drafts directed by Jerry Angelo. They took two in 2009 (Melton and Jarron Gilbert) and two in 2004 (Harris and Tank Johnson). So not addressing the position group somewhere in the first four rounds at least once would be the only real surprise.
But unlike safety last year and tackle in 2008 (Chris Williams), and given that there will be free agents like Cullen Jenkins and Brandon Mebane available at some point for the defensive line, the absolute must-pick isnt necessarily for the next Tommie Harris.
Not sure how your brackets played out but I got three of four through into the third round in three of the four regionals. The only one that Im mad about missing on is Butler, because I am a huge Bulldogs believer after covering them and the Horizon League for a few years and know what Matt Howard can do. Now Pitt does too.
But the Southwest bracket is officially dead to me. Purdue was going to the Final Four after getting past Vanderbilt. Oooops. Ohio State will take UNC and then Duke to get past BYU for the National Championship; thats my story and Im stickin to it.
But that Southwest mess? Dont ask.
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.