Chicago Sun-Times

26 days to Camp: Breaking down the action at defensive end

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abrown705.jpg


Switching to defense for our second positional breakdown in our daily countdown to training camp, we'll examine the roster at defensive end.

Projected starters: Alex Brown, 6-3, 260 pounds, 8th year, Florida; Adewale Ogunleye, 6-4, 260, 8th year, Indiana

Others

Mark Anderson 6-4, 255, 4th year, Alabama
Ervin Baldwin 6-2, 260, 2nd year, Michigan State
Joe Clermond 6-2, 250, 1st year, Pitt
Israel Idonije 6-6, 270, 6th year, Manitoba **** listed on Bears official roster as a DT
Henry Melton 6-3, 260, Rookie, Texas

Projected depth chart

Right end: Brown, Anderson
Left end: Ogunleye, Idonije****

2009 salary cap numbers

Mark Anderson $1,054,339
Ervin Baldwin $390,200
Alex Brown $2,882,514
Joe Clermond $315,200
Israel Idonije $3,448,533
Henry Melton $437,808
Adewale Ogunleye $6,464,056

Number of defensive ends on 2008 roster at start of the season: 3/4 (Idonije was listed as a DL at the start of the 2008 season)

Projected number of defensive ends on 2009 roster at start of the season:
5 (including Idonije)

The skinny: Basically you're looking at the same group from 2008 with the addition of Melton, a fourth-round pick out of Texas who is a project. The Bears have to get more production from this unit in terms of the pass rush. Idonije looked to be headed back outside as he dropped weight, but every time you turned around during the offseason program, there he was lined up at defensive tackle. There were a handful of players on the inside who were rested--most notably Tommie Harris and Marcus Harrison--and that was probably a big reason for Idonije's whereabouts. It's probably fair to say at this point that he'll play both spots and that could spell trouble for a tackle when it comes time to make final cuts. Ogunleye is entering the final year of his contract and knows that a strong season will position him for a pay day. Brown could be in line to hit double-digit sacks for the first time in his career and the hope is new line coach Rod Marinelli has the same kind of effect on Mark Anderson that the team believes Jay Cutler will on the team's wide receivers. The Bears used a strict three-man rotation at defensive end last season, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Ogunleye (878), Brown (853) and Anderson (490) combined for 2,221 snaps in 2008. There were 1,111 total snaps so some two-man combination of those three players was on the field for all but one play over the course of the entire season. That's why we're not sure where Idonije and Melton will fit in. Obviously, if Melton shows some strong pass-rushing capabilities, they'll make time for him to get on the field. Stay tuned here.

The upside: Marinelli proves to be as good as advertised by Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo and the position combines for 30 sacks with Ogunleye or Brown getting a Pro Bowl nod. The starters are proven two-way ends who play the run well. The Bears must ignite their pass rush with the front four to take some pressure off some of the other areas. The position combined for 25 1/2 sacks in 2006 and just 12 last season.

The downside: It can be written about virtually every position--they have to stay healthy. There isn't a lot of quality, proven depth here, but that's a cop out. The downside would be the explosive Anderson who starred as a rookie in 2006 remains missing, making it even more evident that finding a pass rusher will be the team's No. 1 priority in the offseason heading into 2010.

On the hot seat: Anderson isn't going to have a job with the Bears after this season if he doesn't step up but Melton is going to have to prove himself in training camp. The Bears are slowly getting away from their policy of giving nine lives (or more) to every Angelo draft pick.

Final thought: Brown has been an underrated player on this defense for some time. He made 19 stops behind the line of scrimmage in 2008 with six sacks and 13 tackles for loss to go with an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery. It will be interesting to see if at age 30 Marinelli can help him elevate his game to a new level. There's no queston Marinelli was instrumental in improving the play of the linemen in Tampa Bay. Between Anderson and Melton the Bears need to find a situational pass rusher, someone who can come fresh off the sideline and give a quality effort in nickel situations.

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24 Comments

I saw Simeon Rice at a taping of a big ten show...he's in shape and ready to go...his shoulder is fine now

it makes too much sense to bring him in, I know

As far as ABrown...if they took stats on how many times he drew false starts and holding penalties...anyway, one of my favorite players by a long shot...he's a pro bowler as far as I'm concerned

move ABrown to the left side...sit/platoon goolygoogoo...and put Rice on the right

the DE position has just been solved

and you're welcome

Hitman, are you taking drugs again? As much flack as some GMs get for their decisions, I realize just how much worse things could be.

Do you realize that no one wants Rice? As in 32/32 teams aren't interested? He's washed up, done with. Our ends are just fine (well except for Anderson). The problem is with our tackles, namely Tommie Harris. He's the engine of the defense and when he sputters, the whole unit falls apart. And with his chronic knee problems, I don't expect much of a difference from the last two seasons.

What we can look forward to though is Anthony Adams starting as well as Idonije dropping weight and being used primarily as an end. That will definitely help; rather than keeping Adams shelved for half the season. You can also hope that Harrison, who showed flashes in his rookie season, will step it up a notch and that the draft picks can contribute in some way.

R.I.P. McNair

Well...I have always thought Alex Brown was a great DE. Sacks are not always the indicator. Brown is a disruptive force. Even if Brown is not making plays, he always seems to be a factor in the play. Ogunleye seems to vanish during games. Plus he talks way too much. Lets not forget his, "The Panthers are over rated" smack days before the Carolina playoff game.. We lose and the D does nothing. Mark Anderson can be great, but he needs to learn some different moves. Hes not beating people anymore with the straight line speed rush. Dent had great wheels, but he also several moves that got him free to the QB. Its possible that if Anderson does not have a big camp and pre-season, he doesnt make the team. Henry Melton is interesting.. a former RB who is "BUILT" like a tank. The DE position is tied to the DT's. If Tommie and Marcus start creating problems in the middle, it will free up the Ends. BUT!!! if the DT's get no push, then it will allow opposing O's to double Brown and Ogonbyebye and the pass rush will suffer. The wild card here is Jaron Gilbert. He can play in or out. He might be the missing piece to making the line great again.

I've also always liked Alex Brown, but as I've said before, he's playing on the wrong side. His strength is stopping the run, which is more important on the defensive left side. I think if he were a left end he'd be in the Pro Bowl every year. I really don't see Brown being a double digit sacker; pass rushing is not his strength, because he lacks the extreme quickness needed to be a top pass rusher. Here's hoping I'm wrong.

It seems to me that Mark Anderson was a one-trick pony whose good days ended after the 2006 season. Again, I hope I'm wrong and Marinelli gets something out of him, but I sure wouldn't count on it. And as everyone here seems to realize, the key to QB pressure in this defense is pressure by the under tackle. If the Bears are BSing us and Tommie Harris's knee is shot, which seems to be the most likely scenario, the whole thing falls apart. Unless Marcus Harrison steps up, which is possible considering his potential.

On top of all that, the D line must do a much better job of stopping the run. In order to stop the run last season, the Bears brought too many players up to the line and totally sold out the pass. This probably wouldn't have worked decades ago when passing was a lot harder and only accounted for 1/3 of offensive plays; it certainly doesn't work today when it's practically illegal to play pass defense and most teams pass more than they throw. I know this thread is about ends, but the whole line must be much more stout in stopping the run if this defense is going to get back to at least top 10 form.

"Brown could be in line to hit double-digit sacks for the first time in his career and the hope is new line coach Rod Marinelli has the same kind of effect on Mark Anderson that the team believes Jay Cutler will on the team's wide receivers."

If this is what the Bears are hoping for then they are in a world of trouble. Cutler is a QB and has a direct impact on his recievers every game, he actually gets on the field. Rod is a line coach, if fixing a bad D'Line just meant getting a better line coach then everybody would be doing it. If Rod is so valuable why don't we trade him for a couple of first round draft picks. I mean if him and Cutler have the same impact on a team, why not. Or are Lovie and Angelo that stupid that they believe that?

Alex brown is a solid journeymen type DE but that is it. The Vikings make a habit out of running over him, and the Vikings put up huge rushing numbers against the Bears and they do it rushing to the left side. 3 of his 6 sack last year came from DET, STL, and that patch work line of IND in week one. He did not record a single double digit sack game last year.

Oguleye recorded 5 sacks last year but 4 of them came against DET, STL, and JAC. He recorded sacks in only 4 games.

The Bears as a team failed to register a sack in 5 different games last year and registered only 1 sack a game in three other games. That is 3 sacks in 8 games. The teams the failed to get a sack against where, TB, ATL, GB twice and HOU. They recorded only one sack a game against TEN, NO, and DET in the second game.

Brad how many double digit sack games has Alex Brown ever recorded?

The Bears played one of the weakest schedules in football last year, yet they failed to capitolize on it. This year they play arguably the weakest schedule in football.

It's hard for me to see a D'Line that has the same players as last year, the same issues as last year, and the same problems as last year improving much because of a line coach.

Questions to consider:
Do NFL players get better with age?
Do bad knee's get better with age?
How many DE's has Rod coached up?
According to Sapp, Rod, Dungy, Kiffen, Culpepper, and Rice all made him the player he was, my question is which guy actually was the guy or was he just great to begin with and saying nice things about his friends?
Final question, what Bear is best?

Anonymous,
You've got to be kidding:

1. If Rod Marinelli were that valuable, only a fool would trade him. A coach that could turn mediocre players into premier ones is far more valuable than a few draft picks.

2. Alex Brown is far better than a "solid journeyman." He has been a Pro Bowl alternate twice recently and is well above average. He also has an excellent attitude and provides a good presence on the team. Saying that the left side of the Vikings' line ran over him is like complaining because he got run over by a locomotive. The Vikings have probably the best left tackle and guard combination in the league with Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson, and the Bears have been getting nothing out of the right tackle position the last couple of seasons, meaning the Vikings could concentrate on blocking Brown. Brown's problem is that he's playing right end, where you have to be an excellent pass rusher to excel, instead of playing left end where his run stopping skills would be far more valuable. Brown is a decent enough pass rusher, but not good enough to be at the top on the right defensive side.

"If Rod is so valuable why don't we trade him for a couple of first round draft picks. I mean if him and Cutler have the same impact on a team, why not."

Creighton, that is a brilliant point. If Marinelli is so wonderful and can turn defensive line-mice into linemen, then why did only three teams give him a look when Detroit fired him? Where was the massive bidding war for the "best d-line coach" in the NFL? Why aren't teams willing throw high draft picks at the Bears for the rights to this guy? I mean, he can make any line look like Tampa's the year they won the SuperBowl, right? The sad thing is Angelo and Lovie seem to stubbornly and delusionaly believe that. Again, I sincerely hope Harrison and the draft picks can contribute this season in a positive manner.

WFB, you've got to be kidding. Go ahead and answer Creighton's questions at the end of his post and see what you come up with.

Dan Hampton said on the score today that the defense was out of shape the last 2 seasons. He also said T. Harris hasn't shown him anything but a few plays here and there. He goes on to say his potential means nothing, and that Harris needs to make plays that count, and not whine about being hurt. He also said having your highest paid defensive player also be a whiner does not hold a lot of water with the rest of the team.

Hampton was ticked about it. He also said the additions of Cutler, Tisaminoa, and Pace should invigorate the whole Bear's team into having that "hunger" that was evident in 05 and 06.

That motivation is all they need to succeed. I hope that is the case. As it is, I think the Bears will keep 10 D-lineman this year. Brown, Ogunleye, Odonije, Melton, and Anderson at ends. The tackles will be Gilbert, Dvoracek, Adams, Harrison, and Harris.

What may be interesting is if they decide to keep only 9 D-lineman. Do they cut Anderson or Ogunleye? Or does Dvoracek get the axe? It will be one of those 3 if it does happen.

That being said. The linebackers are the most stacked unit on the team right now. Jamar Williams is a stud, and 99% he will not start. I have heard good things about Freeman as well.

Getting ahead of myself here a bit, but the safeties. I would prefer to see Daniel Manning and Corey Graham. The only problem is Manning's tackling ability. But I would rather have 2 safeties with range that are interchangable. The shear athleticism would be freakish. But again, Manning has to be able to tackle. Then bring Bowman in for Nickle.

That's just me. I want the best athletes on the field. But yea, it all rests with the D-line's ability to play both run and pass. I think, this year, that they will play offenses that will have to play more one dimensional to match up with our offense.

Go Bears!

Mike,
I think you missed my points completely, because Anonymous's questions make them, except for the Marinelli one, on which point we disagree. I've said continuously that I do NOT think that mere coaching changes will significantly improve the defense, but I HOPE I'm wrong. Where Anonymous and I disagree is that 1) I think Marinelli is a very good D line coach and 2) that Alex Brown is a very good D end, though not an exceptional pass rusher, and that playing on the wrong side makes him look like less of a player than he is.

And BTW to both of you, yes, sometimes players do get better with age. It's called experience and can go a long way. Of course, once the body starts getting slower and weaker due to age, experience can only go so far, but it's not at all true that players are necessarily better when they're younger than when they're older, up to a certain age.

Adewale Ogunleye $6,464,056. Thats way too much money hes bieng paid. hello these guys r gettin old! Anderson better get better and Tommie harris must b good so they can get thier old butts after the QB!

Is it set in stone the Gilbert kid going to be a tackle? With his skill-set I thought he might also get a look at end.

`Dan Hampton said on the score today that the defense was out of shape the last 2 seasons. He also said T. Harris hasn't shown him anything but a few plays here and there. He goes on to say his potential means nothing, and that Harris needs to make plays that count, and not whine about being hurt. He also said having your highest paid defensive player also be a whiner does not hold a lot of water with the rest of the team.'
That is the BEST! They were out of shape - it was obvious - Thanks Dan!
Dan would line up with his leg straight as it was not in the best of condition. am I right on this?? anyone??
Lets not forget Harris/Bell leaving and thier replacements having awsome years - yes we had Proo Bowl players but Buddy's system helped those players alot as well, the D went down when Tobin took over so Rod can have an impact, but will he?? Maybe if Harris quits his yelpin and works like Danimal did.

The D went downhill just like the 2 Vikings players did - hmmmmmm

DL is the biggest area of concern; ahead of safety, ahead of WR. Angelo and Smith know this, hence, Marinelli. But obviously, coaching can only do so much.

I agree with Strass; the DT is the position of utmost concern as this is the lynchpin of the Bears chosen scheme.

Assuming we can't identical to reduced performance from end; Brown (older), Ogunleye (older), but Idoniji and Anderson benefiting from Marinelli's involvement and Gilbert and Melton developing. We can focus exclusively on DT

Harris
Dvorcek
Harrison
Adams

to me, this is scary. I'd like to see Melton on this list. T.Harris might come back to his prior pro-bowl form but it's not something I'd bank on.

One thing we can all look forward to... if the Bears fall apart and go 6-10..Lovie is on the hook for the whole thing. Lovie has shown one thing over and over..he is stubborn. He got into it with Rivera and canned him. Point there- argue with my philosphy and ur gone. He hired Marinelli so the D Line better show up. If they dont..Lovie is on the hook for it. Lovie has surrounded himself with cronies. Cant have that it in the NFL. Turner has a creative mind.. but he tends to flame out in crucial spots. Trying to throw the ball in GB backed up on your 5 with under 3 mins in the half.. Brilliant. We punt.. they score. That was embarassing. Atlanta... no comment.. in Minny,,,, choke job of all time. Lovie is a good Coordinator,, but a head coach he is not. If Lovie fails to make the playoffs again,, he has to go. Good grief.. John Gruden is sitting around doing nothing. I will take Angry Chucky on the sideline anyday as opposed to Lifeless Lovie staring blankly at the replay screen. Lovie has set the table for himself this year.. No Excuses.. if they dont perform..he has to go.

Adewale Ongunleye:

No chance of getting cut this year, unless he is found in bed with one of the coaches's wives....

I believe he was paid a roster bonus of 6.67 million this February. So if they cut him they would pay almost 7 million dollars for nothing.

Cheers

I think A. Brown and Ogunleye still have a 10-sack season left in them (I'm an optimist). Although Ogunleye was a better pass rusher a few years back, both of them seem to be all-rounders; they are fairly effective against both the pass and the rush. Although you'd like to have an Osi or a Jarred, few teams do.
Unfortunately, M. Anderson, the designated pass rusher, has just been invisible. The fact that Anderson has produced next to nothing and still got to play as much as he did, does nothing to push the veterans, let alone help us in games.
Also, I hope Idonije gets to play more DE. He's tall and has long arms, and I think he's a better outside rusher than an interior rusher.
Finally, I think it would be wrong to dismiss the effects a coach can have. Consider Dave Toub; would you be willing to part with him because he's just a coach? I don't think any of us believe that Rod Marinelli will perform miracles and that the Bears will lead in sacks in 2009 with this Dline. But I do think he can help this unit return to respectability (not a bunch of guys jumping up and down 8 yards away from the QB trying to bat down a pass), and that's probably enough for now. Wait till he gets his hands on a bonafide diamond in the rough! The fact that 3 teams spoke to Marinelli, after a record-breaking losing season as a head coach, indicates to me that people who know him and what he can do hold him in high regard.

If OG plays like he has past couple years, they will be paying him for nothing AGAIN anyways. We wanted a DE drafted big time for a reason, don't make me have to go get stats on OG... :)

Ryan: "What may be interesting is if they decide to keep only 9 D-lineman. Do they cut Anderson or Ogunleye? Or does Dvoracek get the axe? It will be one of those 3 if it does happen."

They will not cut Ogunleye, PERIOD. No matter how many people biatch about his production he's not going anywhere this season. Chicago may go with 9 or 10 d-lineman. Dvoracek would seem the most reasonable to go. However, Melton is a rookie and could probably go to the practice squad no problem unless he proves to be a stud. Anderson was a defensive rookie of the year so he will get this season as a make-or-break pass rush specialist. Gilbert, would be risky trying to put him on the PS so I think he's got a spot locked in unless he turns into another Okwo\Bazuin-type ridiculous pick (which I HIGHLY doubt).

The roster is based on 1) Tommie Harris being Defensive Player of the Year and 2) Ogunleye notching 10+ sacks. If these two players meet expectation, then the other linemen should have little difficulty filling their respective roles.

If he is not hurt, Dvoracek is the tackle most likely to be in the backfield on any given run play. He is very disruptive and penetrates gaps with greater efficiency than Adams.

In my opinion, Anderson lacks the upper-body strength needed to engage blockers. Without improving his hands, he will spend the 2009 season getting pushed passed the pocket. Anderson is closest to the bubble.

call me crazy but with mr marinelli coaching up that line i think the person who will benefit most will be mark anderson he has the size speed,and strength,and he is only 26,he already had a big rookie year,and he reminds me of simeon rice,dont be surprised to see a 10 sack season for him.

Strass i totally agree.I think Turner and Babich should have been fired at end of season last yr.and i agree lovie should Not b a head coach.hes is a good coach but not a good head coach....

Brad, do you know if the Bears have ever toyed around with using a version of the '4 Aces' package that the NY Giants used (with Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, and Michael Strahan on rush downs)?

On third and longs the Bears could put a line out there with Mark Anderson and Adewale Oguleye at DE, and Alex Brown and Tommie Harris at DT, which should be able to muster some serious pressure on opposing QBs. This would enable them to get after the quarterback or zone blitz easier, and just create general hell for the opposing offensive line on second or third down.

JACO, the Bears do have a version of this when they bring in Izzy on third downs. Unfortunately it doesn't work nearly as well as it does for the Giants.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 5, 2009 6:52 AM.

27 days to Camp: Breaking down the quarterback position was the previous entry in this blog.

25 days to Camp: Revisiting the Bears' top issues this summer is the next entry in this blog.

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