The Bears will have Jared Allen’s introductory press conference on Monday, and memories of last season’s porous defense will be just that, memories. Head coach Marc Trestman has a vision of what the defense should be like, and general manager Phil Emery has done a masterful job (at least on paper) of giving him his pieces.
Since the end of last season, Trestman and Emery have shared their vision of having a defense that pressures the quarterback and can create favorable matchups. The Bears will continue using a 4-3 defense, but it will be more of a hybrid defense with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
A hybrid defense conjures up thoughts of using multiple schemes. Trestman does not like that term. “You’d like to be flexible enough,” Trestman said last Wednesday at breakfast with reporters during the NFL owners’ meetings, “to have the ability to play different-looking fronts, to bring different kinds of pressures, to play different kinds of coverages and then put it all together.”
Allen’s signing greatly helps the defense’s flexibility. He helps put constant pressure on the quarterback, allowing the coaching staff to use multiple coverages in the secondary.
Allen’s presence also helps the Bears’ other free agent pickup, Lamarr Houston. Houston can be used in different locations. He can play at the right or left end. In addition, he can slide over to tackle and help out there.
Another player that can move from end to tackle is Israel Idonije. Idonije came back to the Bears after spending last season with Detroit.
Another player the Bears are looking for to add flexibility is Shea McClellin. McClellin has spent his two seasons as a pro playing end. He has been having trouble there, however, as his smaller size is a disadvantage. This season, he is being moved over to linebacker, and will be a situational pass rusher. The Bears are hoping their flexibility can cause a mismatch, thus giving McClellin an advantage.
The final piece in making over the defense will be gotten through the draft in May. The Bears will be looking to add youth and athleticism. They will likely bolster the line with a tackle, and improve their secondary with a cornerback (getting an heir apparent to replace Charles Tillman), and safety, a position that really hurt them last season.
Trestman is considered a quarterback whisperer and an offensive guru. He backed that up by turning a Bears offense that ranked near the bottom for most of the past decade into the second-ranked offense in just his first season as a head coach in the NFL.
Being so offensive minded, Trestman has an idea of the challenges a defense faces in trying to shut down intricate offenses. This is why he covets flexibility. He wants the defense to be ready for whatever offense its facing week in and week out.
Once the Bears coaches are able to see their new pieces up close and personal, Trestman and Tucker will have the task of being able to use them the right way. Emery has done his job of acquiring those pieces.
Tucker will be the one on the hot seat if this does not go well. Many wanted his head after last season’s dismal play. The Bear decided to keep him, however, and give him an opportunity to run the defense not predicated on former coach Lovie Smith’s Cover-2. It’s all on Tucker now.
If Trestman is able to get his vision off the ground this season, there could be a lot of joy and celebration emanating out of Soldier Field.