The Chicago Bears last week abruptly cut Jeremiah Ratliff after a bizarre incident at Halas Hall that ended with a call to the Lake Forest Polic Department.
“Every situation is individually different. Like all our personnel decisions, regardless of who or whose name’s on it, it’s what we feel is best for the football team and [Ratliff's] was no different," head coach John Fox said today. "Anybody that doesn’t really meet our expectations ... I think we’re disappointed in really anybody that we have to release and move on from."
To replace Ratliff, the Bears signed Ziggy Hood.
Hood was a 2009 first-round draft pick (32nd overall) of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played defensive tackle collegiately at Missouri but moved to defensive end in Pittsburgh's 3-4 system. After five seasons in Pittsburgh, Hood signed a free-agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014. Due to a foot injury, the Jaguars placed Hood on IR before the start of this season. He passed his physical last week and Jacksonville promptly cut him.
“He’s got a lot of skins on the wall," said Fox. "He’s played a lot in this league at a high level. I [liked] him coming out way back when he was a rookie. Once healthy - I think he’s pretty far along in that process - I think he’s a front-line defensive lineman."
Hood (6-3, 300) is a two-gap 5-technique defensive end with a heavy lower body. Before this year, he had never before missed an NFL contest, so health isn't a big concern. Hood has 12.5 sacks in six seasons, with equates roughly to one sack every eight games, so his value on passing downs is limited. Expect the Bears to use him primarily in base 3-4 sets, where his girth allows him to fill gaps against the run.
"[We] had a light workout today, introducing Ziggy Hood to our defensive system," Fox said. "He’s performed at a high level when he’s been active and healthy and we expect that moving forward.”
Whether he's "performed at a high level" is up for debate. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Hood has been one of the worst all-around defensive linemen in the NFL during his career.
I don't typically put much stock into PFF's overall grades, which are far too subjective for my tastes, yet the pattern with Hood is hard to ignore. Here are his PFF grades the past six years:
|Year||Overall||Run D||Pass Rush|
Again, PFF grades in no way tell the whole story, but those are some pretty horrendous numbers. The only positive is that he played much better last season with the Jaguars, but that was as a 4-3 DT. Under Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, he'll again be a 5-technique DE, a role in which he's struggled throughout his career.
Hood does brings value to the team. His experience should be a boost to the locker room and he'll help fill the Ratliff void as a rotational player along the defensive line - a unit that also lost Ego Ferguson last week.
Yet in no way will Hood "replace" Ratliff, as they are entirely different players. Ratliff is a four-time Pro Bowler who had 6.5 sacks in just 11 games played last year. In Week 7, he was a one-man wrecking crew against the Miami Dolphins, sacking Ryan Tannehill 3.5 times. He was the club's best interior pass rusher, a player around whom the Bears built this year's defense.
"Ratliff is still a good player in this league, always has been," Fangio said back in May. "I don’t see him slowing down. He should be able to find a spot for us and be an integral player for us."
Even at 34, the Bears still felt Ratliff could be a weapon on defense due to his ability to penetrate gaps and collapse the pocket in the face of the quarterback. That's not Hood's skill set.
The Bears would love for Will Sutton to fill the void on passing downs but the second-year player is still searching for his first career sack, despite extensive playing time his first two seasons.
Jarvis Jenkins and Pernell McPhee have provided most of the pass rush for Chicago's defense this season. With Ratliff gone, and no viable replacements waiting in the wings, don't expect that to change with Hood on board.