The Bears’ evaluation of quarterback Jay Cutler remains a study in progress. But whatever the troubles with the Bears defense, the strategic direction is not changing: The defense plays a 4-3 base defense and is going to stay that course.
Besides giving continued signs that the organization views Cutler as the franchise quarterback, even as the evaluation process is ongoing, general manager Phil Emery made clear on Thursday morning during an appearance on “The Mully & Hanley Show” on WSCR-AM that the Bears will not be following the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and others in adopting a 3-4 defensive scheme.
The Bears have only a handful of players who would make smooth transitions to a 3-4. Shea McClellin fits the physical profile of a 3-4 linebacker but the Bears have no linemen other than perhaps Julius Peppers, at age 33, who have the size to be a 3-4 lineman.
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Emery was in Kansas City when the Chiefs converted and while some players made the transition, others like defensive end Turk McBride could not. “You don’t want to have too many of those ‘can’t make the transition’ guys,” Emery said.
Emery did not bring it up, but changing to a 3-4, which coordinator Mel Tucker has coached elsewhere during his career, also would require coaching-staff changes as well as player personnel. The techniques for the defensive line are different in most 3-4’s, where the down-linemen play two-gap scheme, vs. the current Bears system that is a one-gap, upfield-speed style. Inside linebackers typically have a separate position coach as well.
Emery also said that the timetables for Cutler returning from his torn groin (four weeks) and linebacker Lance Briggs from his fractured shoulder (six) were “accurate.” Both players have indicated hopes of playing sooner than those estimates but Emery was pleased at the positive mindsets of both.