CHICAGO - OCTOBER 17: Henry Melton #69 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on October 17 2010 in Chicago Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Henry Melton
When the Bears drafted Tommie Harris in the 2004, they along with a lot of us believed that he would be a staple on the Bears defensive line for the next 8 to 10 years. Up until the 2006 season we all felt like we had that dominate 3 technique defensive tackle, until he severely injured his hamstring week 13 against the Vikings and followed that up by injuring his knee in a week 3 Sunday Night game against the Cowboys in 2007. After those two injuries, Harris was never the same again and the Bears finally gave up on him by releasing him this year. So where did the Bears go from there? They re-signed Matt Toeaina who gave them snaps at the 3 technique position even though his natural position is at Nose Tackle. The Bears also used their 4th round pick of this past draft to move up in the 2nd round to grab Oregon State standout DT Stephen Paea who figures to play a big role in that under tackle rotation.
The man that will be helping Paea in that 3 technique rotation is 3rd player Henry Melton. The 6-3 294 pound (allegedly) DT is in today's player spotlight.
Who is Henry Melton?
Melton's first two years at Texas saw him playing running back for the Longhorns. It wasn't until his junior and senior season where the coaches switched him over to DE and that's where his potential as an NFL talent was highlighted. The Bears drafted him with the 105th pick in the 4th round with the vision of using him as a versatile DL who can play inside and outside. He impressed in the pre-season his 1st year, but not enough for him to see time in regular season as he was put on injured reserve (or in Lovie's case redshirted). Melton 2nd season with the Bears saw him get more playing time, where he gave the Bears a lot of snaps on passing downs in the interior line. Statistically Melton didn't have an impact, but fans who watched almost every snap last season saw that Melton's presence in the middle of that line was felt enough to have high expectations for him moving forward.
Fans can expect Melton to take that next step on the Bears defensive line as he will see increased snaps at the most important role on a Tampa-2 defensive line, the 3 technique under tackle. I don't expect the Bears to go out and add Packers Free Agent DE Cullen Jenkins to the rotation when free agency arrives; because of how high Lovie Smith and the coaching staff are on Melton. You add in the addition of Paea through the draft and you can see the writing on the wall that they will go with what they have and use free agency for other pressing needs. One of the main things fans should keep an eye on with Melton is how he performs in run support early in training camp and in the preseason. If he shows he can be solid in run support, then it gives Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli almost a handful of interior defensive line combinations he can throw out there with Melton, Paea, Anthony Adams, and Toeaina. Melton should have his best statistical season as a pro not only because of Harris' absence, but because it will be his 3rd year in the system.