Envisioning Change: Bears D-Line

Plugging in free agent additions, Rick Drummond offers a glimpse of the new Chicago D-line.

| 3 years ago

Envisioning Change: Bears D-Line

change-CHIThis year’s free agency period is three weeks old now and the splashes that were going to be made have happened. Teams are moving on to chasing down depth pieces, securing role players and giving chances to hopefuls looking to regain form, but we can get a feel now for the major pieces being plugged in.

Stopping for a minute to see what some of those may look like, here’s the first in a series (inspired by the flood of requests that followed these two tweeted images earlier this week: Oakland D, Oakland O) where we’ll be envisioning added free agent parts as they might be seen on the field for their new teams.

First stop is in Chicago where PFF’s Steve Palazzolo went into detail about the Bears’ defensive changes in this piece for ESPN on Tuesday. Here we’re focusing on a D-line that needed some re-shaping after a 2013 season that saw too many red grades come their way, lost Henry Melton to injury and then to free agency, and said goodbye to Julius Peppers and his sizable cap number.

There’s still work to be done on the interior, but the Bears landed a handful of edge options that they can mix and match with while hoping to generate some kind of pass rush. As shown here ex-Raider Lamarr Houston has the ability to slide inside in certain situations, clearing room for fellow free agent adds Willie Young and Jared Allen to man the edges.


The 2013 production from these replacements as compared to the former Bears starters they’ll be judged against is reason for hope. They collectively bring a bump in play not only in getting after the quarterback, but against the run as well.

bears dline2

Improvement can be expected simply due to Shea McClellin and his 51st-ranked (of 52 qualifying 4-3 DEs) -28.4 overall grade being set aside. That mark was built on a league-worst -19.2 grade in run defense and a nearly-as-bad -12.2 pass rush grade. Houston’s aforementioned position versatility and his track record as a strong run defender (+14.9 in 2013) could help ease that drag while also giving Allen a break from his annual 1000+ snap output – something that may be the key to Allen improving upon the numbers Peppers left as the bar to cross.

Chicago hopes this infusion up front will help bring the D back in line with what their offense produced and, in the process, take them to the top of an NFC North that was there for the taking in 2013.


Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick

  • Jason Williams

    Can you roll that play forward and show Aaron Rodgers getting planted by Jared Allen into the turf, fumbling the ball, picked up by Tillman en route to a division clinching touchdown instead of what actually happened on that play?

    Because I can’t bear (pardon the pun) to remember how badly that season ended.

    • madscout12

      Roll the play forward and see the massive hold against Wooton on the interior…which lets Rogers escape. Melton penetrates and gets his arm hooked by the lineman.

      That game was some of the worst officiating of the year, by far.

      • Jason Williams

        Melton was LONG gone by the time this game rolled around man…

        • madscout12

          My bad…should have read “Wooton penetrates and gets his arm hooked by the lineman”

      • RobRealist

        Bear fan whining about the refs… not after that 2010 game when the refs gifted the bears 18 penalties against the Packers. Then the Rodgers injury…. that’s the last two bear’s “victories” in the rivalry.

        • madscout12

          You mean the game with 8 false start/illegal formation/delay of game penalties on the Packers? The game where the zebras actually called delays of game when Rogers let the clock expire, holding when the cheese held, and PI when the cheese mugged Bear WRs? The game with a competent officiating staff? That game?

      • Bearsnumber Onefan

        Hell yes it was

  • Mike

    This analysis leaves out a huge part of this equation: the interior line each of the DEs had the luxury of playing next to. The Bears interior line is… Not good.

    The Bears are fixing their D-line outside in and imo incorrectly… Ever wonder why the Lions felt Willie Young was too expensive? Probably because he played next to the best DT in football and could pin his ears back and focus on pass rush vs. run stopping.

    • blackhawk915

      Ratliff should be decent in the middle with some time to get back to form, and if Collins returns to form and Paea takes a step, they should have a decent interior line, at least enough to clog up the middle and create opportunities for Young, Allen and Houston. Don’t forget they also have Idonije who can play inside, and signs point to Emery drafting a DT in the early rounds. Let’s not judge the DT’s yet until the draft plays out.

      • Mike

        They should have never let Melton go. That injury must have scared them off but I felt like he was tracking to be a top 5 DT.

        • blackhawk915

          Eh, maybe. But I don’t think they should have overpaid for him, and that was the issue. Don’t forget, he wasn’t playing particularly well before he tore his ACL. And it may just be that he doesn’t play well for anyone but Rod Marinelli.

        • bcbbc2202

          Melton is a low motor guy, once Peppers’ play slipped, Melton disappeared for entire games. Check out his 2013 before got hurt. 2 pressures in 3 games, on his ass 5 times.

          • Rob

            Remember Tommie Harris? When you have a guy whose best asset is his quickness/burst off the snap and plays a position needs him to have these abilities then he has his ACL torn…not sure I would want to pay him. The Bears went about their business the right way and Melton didnt like it. That’s why the draft is there.

          • Disinterested 3rd Party

            I agree fully. He really didn’t get it done before he got hurt. Hopefully for him he revives it under Rod M.

        • Michael Rushton

          Don’t forget- The Bears should have the pick of the litter at #14 this year in a very deep DT class. The only DT that might be off the board is Aaron Donald and I doubt that that’s going to happen- the Giants, Rams and Titans have too many pressing needs on offense to go DT with their first pick in a draft with this kind of depth at the position. The Bears don’t have those needs.

          Imagine a front four of Houston, Donald, Ratliff and Allen with Young as the rotational DE. Even if Donald is off the board, there are scads of quality DT’s to be had in the first three round of this year’s draft (Jernigan, Nix, Hageman, Tuitt, Jones, Johnson, Easley, Quarles, Sutton, Ferguson are all guys who have a legitimate chance to start as rookies) and I think Emery will double down in the draft on the D Line.

          In fact, Emery might be able to do for the D Line this off-season what he was able to accomplish last off-season with the O Line. If he does, this is definitely a playoff team and possibly a real NFC contender.

          • Dale

            i definatley agree. If the bears add Donald, he would be great three technique in this defense. His combination of insane quickness and solid strength would allow him to very productive in his first year. Then lamar houston could kick out to his more natural position where he can be more productive. Overall the d line would be much better than last years

        • Dale

          If the Bears are able to get Aaron Donald with their first round pick, he will be a much better three technique than Henry Melton

    • Johnathan Wood

      Their DTs were just fine last year until Melton, Collins, and Paea all got hurt.

  • Henry

    These 3d bar charts are awful – they don’t look good and just obscure the data you are trying to present.

  • Rob

    Can we get that picture with DJ Williams in there at MLB and have the new lineman for GB (I know Dietrich-Smith is gone) that the Bears are going to beat time and time again this upcoming season?

    • PhilEagle

      lol – bears “are going to beat time and time again”.