Melton wants to stay inside

Chicago Bears defensive lineman Henry Melton has been rotating between defensive tackle and defensive end for the past month. Yet if it were up to him, he would prefer to stay inside.

Henry Melton had one message for his fellow defensive linemen, and for Julius Peppers in particular:

"Please, guys, let me stay inside," he said. "I know you want the quick line to the ball, but so do I. I'm a big man and I get really tired when I have to run around the edge all the time."

Melton registered his complaint with a smile on his face. After all, who on the team could be too upset after a dominant defensive statement against the Detroit Lions this past Sunday?

Throughout the contest, Chicago's coaches slide Peppers all over the line, including five plays at defensive tackle. This pushed Melton outside to end, a position he played in college and during his first few years in the league. He put on weight this past offseason for a full-time gig as the team's under tackle, with mixed results. He's second on the team with 4.0 sacks, behind only Peppers, yet he has disappeared at times during the season.

Before the team's Week 9 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Lovie Smith asked Melton to intensify his efforts– advice Melton intends to heed.

"It's been a good year so far but I know that I can improve," Melton said. "The bar has been raised for all of us on the defense. Just look at Peppers flying around. He's putting tremendous pressure on the quarterback play after play. I need to up my intensity so I can be functioning at that level as well."

Melton will have a good opportunity this week to follow through on his stated intentions. The San Diego Chargers are 25th in the NFL in sacks allowed (25.0) and this week placed starting left guard Kris Dielman on injured reserve with a severe concussion. The Chargers' front five, which gave up six sacks to the Oakland Raiders last week, may also be without guards Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green.

The injuries should allow Melton and the rest of the defensive line plenty of chances to get after Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers.

"I've been working hard on film study," Melton said. "I see certain tendencies of the Chargers offense that we can exploit. Rivers for example, he's a seasoned vet with tremendous skills but I do see some openings for our guys there. A lot will ride on our timing and our speed. I need to be making quick, decisive moves, getting through their O line and going after the quarterback.

"The intimidation factor against the Chargers from our side of the ball will be huge. It's going to be an exciting game and a good challenge for us as a team and for me as a player. After Sunday, I want to be mentioned for what I did right, not for where I could be improving."


Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.