Bears defense will improve under Tucker

Al Messerschmidt

In their press conferences yesterday in Indianapolis both Marc Trestman and Phil Emery and both stressed the importance of fixing the defense. A big part of that goes with staying with Mel Tucker as the defensive coordinator, which was the right move.

The decision to keep Mel Tucker as the defensive coordinator has been opined about before. But, after Emery and Trestman addressed the media at the Scouting Combine yesterday, it seemed like it was worth addressing again.

Tucker is the right man for the job because he didn't get enough of a chance last season to make his mark on the defense. He came in and inherited a unit that spent nine seasons under a defensive-minded head coach whose system was proven, and the players in place were selected to play that system and they played it well.

The players were also extremely close to their former coaches and, as a unit, had finished the previous season ranked in the top five in points and yards allowed.

For all these reasons, as well as others, Tucker and Trestman decided that it was probably best to keep the same system in place.

Ultimately though, that was not the undoing of the defense. No, what ended up being a failure was a combination of age and injuries.

The Bears ended up with unprepared rookies like Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene playing and the defensive line was a mess. The fact is, no matter what system the Bears were running they were likely to be underachieving.

Now, a new year and a chance for Tucker to really make a mark with the defense.

At the combine press conference yesterday, Trestman laid out the plan for the defense this year.

It involves a base 4-3 front that is "flexible" likely meaning that there are multiple looks and a lot more variety. Tucker is going to have more freedom to run the defense he wants, with his language.

Another factor in why the defense will be improved is because of the infusion of younger players. Emery and Trestman both said that they will focus on the defense in the draft and try to field a defense with a better pass rush.

Trestman expressed optimism that the defense could be rebuilt in an offseason because of the success they had rebuilding the offense last offseason.

That, of course, is dependent on how well Emery and Trestman can scout and draft and, while the track record so far is somewhat mixed, there is reason to believe.

While it was announced that Shea McClellin will be moved to linebacker, that could be a good thing. The Bears need another young linebacker, and McClellin has the athleticism and size that would fit at the position. If he can develop under new position coach Paul Pasqualoni and learn to cover and shed blocks, he could be an asset.

Plus, Emery has seemingly tried to entice trade partners to possibly move down and acquire more picks. The draft is deep at defensive line so it's possible that the Bears move down a few spots, possibly pick up another second or third round pick, and still get a guy they want.

Say they get on the clock and Timmy Jernigan, Ra'Shede Hageman and Aaron Donald are all on the board. If a team like Miami, Arizona or even Cincinnati want to move up to get an offensive player they like, then the Bears could get an extra pick or two and still have a shot at getting one of their three guys. With the extra pick the Bears could add a cornerback or safety.

I believe that Trestman and Emery are committed to getting the defense right and I think Tucker will be the guy who can improve it, provided that he has better players to work with.

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