The Bears have typically taken care of extending contracts for players deemed key in their future. Henry Melton is entering a contract year and has not gotten a new deal yet despite playing perhaps the most pivotal position in the Bears defensive scheme.
It could yet happen but Melton has an idea why it hasnt, and hes not frustrated. Yet.
No, not yet, Melton said. I still have a lot to prove for this defense, and I do want to show that I am the guy of the future for this defense.
He hasnt necessarily shown that yet. Flashes, yes. But the guy? Not yet.
The reasons why the Bears were and are so high on Melton as an impact three-technique were apparent in his seven sacks for 2011, his first year as a starter.
The reasons why coach Lovie Smith publicly called him out a bit during the season are apparent as well.
Melton fares reasonably well on ProFootballFocus.coms analysis of pass-rush performances by interior defensive tackles for the past three years. He ranks 16th in PFFs list of most productive interior rushmen, based on his sacks, hits and hurries for his 678 pass-rush snaps, most of those last year in his first as a starter.
PFF counts hits and hurries as three-quarters of a sack as a way to look at total pressure brought, not just sacks themselves. Those are eventually divided into the number of pass-rush snaps and multiplied by 100 to produce a ranking number.
What makes Meltons work interesting is that it represents promise but also a concern.
Melton moved from running back to defensive end at Texas and from end to tackle with the Bears. His play in 2011 was streaky and that is not good enough for what his position demands in the Bears scheme.
Meltons combined 56 pressures equate to one every 12.1 snaps less than one per six-play possession, for example. By comparison, San Franciscos Justin Smith registers one impact every 8.5 snaps. Geno Atkins posts one every 9.1 snaps for Cincinnati.
Not simply because of these players, obviously, but San Francisco was the No. 4 yardage defense last season. Cincinnati was No. 7. Antonio Smith was No. 3; his Houston defense was No. 2 in yardage defense. Philadelphia, where Cullen Jenkins ranked No. 4 on PFFs list, was No. 8.
The Bears were No. 17.
One curiosity: Detroits Ndamukong Suh ranked nowhere on the list.