With camp underway, the Bears are able to unveil many of the new toys acquired this offseason on both sides of the ball. We'll check feverishly on any updates concerning the status of our draft picks, our
new first true #1 wide receiver in forever, and how some of the new role players are fitting in. The addition of Shea McClellin gives the Bears' their first highly drafted defensive end since the immortal Dan Bazuin in 2007's second round, but right now it seems like McClellin's initial role on the team will be as a pass rush specialist, primarily coming into the game on third down or obvious passing situations. One of the biggest factors that could help McClellin (and the Bears' pass defense) have a successful 2012? Israel Idonije.
We all know Izzy:versatile as Julius Peppers:amazing, but the Bears' haven't been able to fully capitalize on that element of his game the past few years. Idonije has gained or lost more weight for his craft than Christian Bale, bouncing from the interior to edge and back again until settling into the starting end spot opposite Peppers the past two seasons. An excellent 2010 season was followed by a so-so 2011 campaign, but part of that issue can be attributed to the Bears overreliance on their starters thanks to poor bench support. Idonije played the eighth most snaps among defensive ends in 2011, which is not good for him being as productive as he can be the whole season and bad for the team since he was the best option they had. And if you are still holding out hope for Wootton to put it together, I've got some magic legumes to sell you.
But with the addition of McClellin, the Bears may finally have the depth along the defensive line necessary to optimize Idonije (which sounds like a Mission Impossible assignment). Occasionally spelling Idonije on first or second down will reduce his snaps and increase his effective during games, but also allow the Bears to maximize their pass rush when the time comes. Picture this: Bears up 21-17, Packers ball on the 50, two minutes left in the game. Rodgers goes in the shotgun, five wide receivers. The Bears - as a cornerstone of the Tampa 2 defense - will concentrate on creating pressure with the front four. Do you want four pass rushers on the field or three and a nose tackle?
In passing situations, sliding Idonije back inside and bringing in McClellin gives the defense four guys (Peppers and Melton are the other two) that are above average-to-great at getting to the quarterback. There's no need to keep Toeaina or Paea on the field unless the pass rushing abilities they can provide are above what Idonije can do from the interior. Ideally, Idonije's snaps are reduced because of productive role players coming in for him at defensive end, but regardless, the Bears' need the veteran lineman on the field and productive. Sliding Izzy back inside to his old comfort zone on third and long should provide a little extra boost that the Bears' will need to stop some of the prolific passing attacks they'll see this year.