Envisioning Change: Bears D-Line
This 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.
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.
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