Bears eyeing two defenders at Senior Bowl

The Chicago Bears have shown interest in two defensive players in Mobile this week, a Pac-12 defensive tackle and safety, two positions of critical need for the team heading into 2014.

After one of the worst defensive performances in franchise history, the Chicago Bears will be looking to address numerous needs on defense during this year's draft. As such, Bears scouts and coaches have been in Mobile, Ala. all week – including offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and special teams coach Joe DeCamillis – to watch Senior Bowl practices.

On Tuesday, Bears reps were seen talking to Washington State safety Deone Bucannon. The next day Bucannon confirmed their meeting.

"They interviewed me. I feel it went well," he said. "Of course, the Bears defense, it's historical. It was awesome."

Bucannon (6-1, 216) was named first-team All Pac-12 in 2013, earned second-team All-American honors and was a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. He led the Pac-12 in tackles (109) and was fourth in the conference in interceptions (five), while leading the Cougars with three forced fumbles and three fumbles recoveries.

Buccannon's 78-inch wingspan is the widest of any safety at the Senior Bowl. He played strong safety in college and is considered one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs in the draft.

"I like being in the box," Buccannon said. "At the same time, I want them to put me in a position to make plays but I have to earn that right. I understand that completely. Whether they want me in the box or whether they want me in the post to go sideline to sideline, it doesn't really matter. I'm just out there to put everything I have on the field for my team."

Buccanon is considered a Top 5 safety in this year's draft and a potential second-round pick. Bears safeties last year underperformed considerably and Major Wright is set to hit free agency, so Chicago must address the position this offseason. Buccanon's toughness, quality tackling and in-the-box ability would be a big boost to a unit that ranked 32nd in the league against the run last season.

The Bears also met with Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton. Sutton is the two-time reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year. He put on extra weight his senior season but that appeared to slow him down. That stat sheet was affected considerably as a result.

At Monday's Senior Bowl weigh in, Sutton measured just 6-1 and was a surprising 315 pounds, which is 20 pounds more than his listed playing weight in 2013. He looked big around the middle and his 30 5/8-inch arms were the shortest of any defensive tackle in Mobile.

Inconsistency was his biggest knock his senior year, which was the case during Senior Bowl practices this week. He flashed serious quickness at times and has a good spin move, but he also had plenty of rushes during 1-on-1 drills that went nowhere.

He's projected as a second- or third-round selection. If he's going to fit in Chicago's 4-3 system as the 3-technique under tackle, he'll need to focus on conditioning over the next month. If he sheds some weight before the Scouting Combine, moving closer to his playing weight in 2012, he could be a candidate for the Bears on Day 2 of the draft.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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