Tucker Confirms Defensive Changes and Other Bullets

MelTuckerHopefully everyone had a great weekend! The Bears rookie minicamp finished up, and sadly, my pet prospect (Indiana safety Greg Heban) didn’t make the grade for the Bears. (Not that I think that’s a bad decision; I’m certainly not qualified. I just liked watching him play in college.) According to Brad Biggs, the Bears did sign at least two players out of minicamp: North Texas safety Marcus Trice and Louisville running back Senorise Perry. Both players will head to camp with the Bears, and given the relative strength of their respective positional groups, I think Trice has to fancy his chances of cracking the roster more than Perry.

  • Among Perry’s competition, former NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch is certainly the highest-profile candidate. As Adam Hoge writes for CBS Chicago, the key to Lynch making the roster and being a potentially useful offensive player will be his ability to contribute on special teams. As a Heisman Trophy-finalist college quarterback, Lynch obviously wasn’t asked to do a lot of blocking or tackling, so he’s a bit behind the curve.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright has a nice rundown of the potential changes in store for the Bears defensive scheme. Mel Tucker sounds as though he wants to make a lot of changes, and after last year’s performance, I’d think that’s a good approach. From the piece, I received the impression that while the changes wouldn’t be sweeping, they will be felt at all levels of the defense. Tucker notes that the high level of defensive personnel turnover (both coaches and players) helps to facilitate this sort of change. This is Mel Tucker’s defense now; he’s no longer beholden to Lovie Smith’s scheme, and he’ll benefit from a wealth of new defensive talent. I’m very interested to see how the Bears look defensively under Tucker; due to injuries (and the Bears effort to maintain defensive continuity from Lovie’s system) I’m still not really sure I know what a Mel Tucker defense looks like.
  • Marc Trestman plans on giving Jordan Palmer the first crack at the backup quarterback position, as noted by Adam Jahns. I think Palmer has a leg up at this point, given that the Bears certainly view themselves as a contending team; his veteran status probably provides a more reassuring presence. That said, Palmer has thrown all of 15 passes in the NFL, so it’s not as though he’s a seasoned, tested player. Considering the Bears spent a sixth-round choice on David Fales, Palmer probably shouldn’t be too comfortable.
  • Patrick Finley wrote a quick piece for the Sun-Times on the relationship between second-round choice Ego Ferguson and undrafted free agent signing Christian Jones.
  • The Bears released punter Drew Butler, according to ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright. Butler was signed to a reserve/futures contract this offseason, but his chances of making the team were drastically diminished when Chicago selected Pat O’Donnell in the sixth round of the draft.
  • Speaking of O’Donnell, Jeff Dickerson wrote that he’s got some advice from the veteran specialists while at minicamp this weekend. Dickerson also reports that O’Donnell repeatedly hit the roof of the Bears indoor practice facility. Personally, I’m hoping he hits the Dallas scoreboard at some point. Remember when everyone assumed that would happen repeatedly, and it was treated as some sort of “Thing To Worry About”? Has it even happened in a game?
  • Finally, the National Football Post’s Joe Fortenbaugh has the Las Vegas Hotel Sportsbook NFL over/under lines for the upcoming season. The Bears sit at 8, which strikes me as low; I’d probably put it at 9. (Note: I’m not a professional gambler.) Looking at the other divisional teams, the Packers are at 10, the Lions match the Bears with 8, and the Vikings sit at 6. Play at your own risk.

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.

566 responses to “Tucker Confirms Defensive Changes and Other Bullets”

  1. frank

    So does the movement of Clint Hurtt to OLB coach signal an impending switch to a 3-4? Does this change, if made, bring new life to Shea McLellin? It would seem that at least some 3-4 is in the offing anyway. This may be just wishful thinking but it would be awfully nice if there was a position at which McLellin was even league-average; one less hole to fill (even if an upgrade becomes necessary in the future).

    1. mdavis

      Yeah I think 100% it means a 3-4 is on the way. You don’t typically have that designation on a 4-3 team, at least I’ve never heard of it. It should at the very least give Shea an opportunity, even if its more as a specialist. I won’t hold my breath though. There are a few guys that I think can translate that are on the roster now, but I’d imagine a good portion of this draft and free agency will be bringing in guys to fit the mold. I think Ego can translate, whether bulking up to play nose, or dropping a couple to bump out to end though that would be an imperfect fit I think. Ratliff came up as a NT. Houston, once healthy, can play either OLB or DE. Bostic and Jones will be fine, and Jones gives them some options at the LB pos I think. At 7, another guy who could be a target is Danny Shelton. He’s more of a true nose at 6’2″ 330. But with so many holes…I don’t think they can go wrong with anyone on defense ha.

  2. frank

    Yeah–it just seems to me though, that with so many problems on defense, switching schemes will only exacerbate the matter. You don’t have the players, and they’re learning a new scheme, and you have a ton of holes to fill anyway. Sounds like a recipe for disaster–but the defense is already a disaster–guess it can’t get much worse. And again, a 3-4 can be played just as poorly as a 4-3. It’s the players, not the scheme. And I believe 3-4 corners need to be much more proficient at man defenses rather than zone–so there would be added concerns not only on the line, but the secondary too. With Bostic, Jones, and McLellin, they may have the LBs, but that’s about it. That and half a defensive line. I’d like to see a hybrid, or the ability to run both–but that brings up a number of roster construction issues. Other teams seem to do it though.

    1. mdavis

      Yeah I think that could be part of the thinking with roster construction. The defense is so bad as it is, its not like they have a ton of talent they need to move around. Now is the time to switch it. Sutton overall, apparently to most grades, was a disappointment. So, DL wise we’re talking Ego and Ratliff. Paea is a FA and won’t fit the scheme so I think he walks. Fuller was a physical player coming out of college, so I’d look for this to play to his strengths.

      1. frank

        Well, the roster is constructed for a 4-3 — a bad 4-3, but a 4-3 nonetheless. I know they have to think long term, but the window with the offensive talent on the roster isn’t very big. An extended rebuild/rescheming on defense may take so long that the window closes on offense–leading to the very same rebuild with the offense, only a couple of years later. I just don’t know, 1) how much talent can you turn over, 2) how quickly can it be done, and 3) will it make a difference? I simply don’t see the 3-4 as the panacea that many others seem to. And switchovers have been met with mixed success to say the least–New Orleans was real good the first year they switched, and then bad the next. Others have met with varying degrees of success–or failure.

        1. mdavis

          I’ll agree with you that I don’t think the 3-4 is the solution to all problems like some people seem to think. But they brought in 1 of the top DCs in all of football. top 5 defenses first 3 years, was 10th this year without their top pass rusher, 2 of the best ILBs in football, so that’s impressive as well. He built that defense developing a 3rd rounder (Bowman), a long time vet (J. Smith), an undrafted player (A. Brooks) So let’s look at needs.
          S-that won’t change with the switch
          LB-also won’t change with the switch. Just the type of LB changes.
          CB-Same here
          pass rusher-Allen looked over the hill last year, Houston and Young coming off serious injuries, they still need this spot
          DL-Ego showed flashes, Sutton was looked overmatched and Ratliff can’t stay healthy. So this was going to stay a need as a 4-3 or a 3-4.

          So really at this point I think this is maybe the ideal time to transition. I mean, I look at players that I’d be “yes, we need to keep this guy cause we can build with them” and its Fuller, Christian Jones, Bostic, and Ego. I’ll throw Houston in there because, while the production wasn’t there, I think he has a nasty streak in him and he may fit better in 3-4. But other than that….I don’t see a lot there. And I believe those guys actually translate well to a 3-4. But this will defintely be a heavy defensive draft and free agency (as it should be)

          1. frank

            I think Allen was misused last year. He was so often lined head-to-head on a tackle and that’s not his game. He’s more of a speed guy, not a power guy. I think the defense will improve next year just by having a staff that’s able to play guys in position and use them as their strengths dictate. That said, I agree, Fangio is one of the best and he does seem to prefer a 3-4.

            Yes–the DL is always a need (even when it’s not–can’t have enough good ones); and the type of LB changes (and now Briggs wants to come back . . .). I think that the safeties in the 3-4 are the more traditional FS and SS whereas in the defense the Bears were running, they were pretty much the same. I think too, the corners have to be better in man coverage and more physical–thus your point on Fuller especially is well taken. But you’re still looking at about a three year (draft) process to get all the pieces, depending of course on free agency and the ability to switch and develop the players already here. By that time, I wonder what the offense will look like. Of course, if Pace is as good as advertised, and as good as he’s shown so far, he should be able to put together a strong roster–I guess I’m just not used to that kind of competence (sad to say).

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