Competition beginning to take shape

LAKE FOREST -- Things are going ‘downhill' for members of the Bears defensive unit. And that could be a very good thing for the upcoming season.

"What we mean when we use the term ‘downhill' in football is that the speed and the intensity of our play has greatly increased," said Bryan Knight Bryan, who is competing for the starting strong-side linebacker spot with Joe Odom. "It's as if you were rushing down a steep slope towards the ball. You let the physicality of the situation take over, relaxing into the play. It's relying on instinct and game knowledge rather than on conscious thought."

The end result of the new system is to lessen reaction time and quicken the overall pace of the game. Players should have a better chance to make big plays, in particular force turnovers. A key component is the overall stamina of each member of the team.

"I'm amazed at the energy that this system requires," Knight said. "To do this well, you need to be in top physical condition. Why? Because you will need to call on your strength, your lateral quickness, and your forward speed each and every time the ball is snapped. That can take quite a toll on your body as the game progresses."

Knight won a starting role out of training camp a season ago only to lose it to a rookie. Lance Briggs took over in Week 5 and didn't look back.

This time around Knight is pitted against Joe Odom for the weakside position. Odom started three games as a rookie, but finished the year on Injured Reserve. Odom totaled 23 tackles and 16 solo tackles, while Knight had 18 tackles and 14 solo tackles.

Head Coach Lovie Smith stated Saturday that his only expectation at this point was to see ‘significant improvement from the players each time they take the field.' Smith also said that he expected both Knight and Odom to progress within the new system."

"Odom hadn't worked out in a while due to his injury," Smith said. "I see a significant improvement in his performance from what he was able to do 6 weeks ago. Joe has already lost 10 lbs. Both Joe and Bryan have talent. They are quick learners. The bar has been set and they'll need to improve each day."

Several players have been noticeably tired as they head to the sidelines following a practice session including Lance Briggs

"I'd seen St. Louis play defense this way, but it's only when you are the one making all of these moves that you get an idea of how hard it can be," Briggs said. "I've been working out continuously during the off-season and thought that I was in great shape. Now I can tell that there is quite a way to go to build up the stamina that I'm going to need."

Briggs will move to the weakside spot this season and is expected to be a playmaker for the defense. He ranked 4th on the Bears with 60 solos, 4 TFLs and 1 INT for a 45-yard TD.

"I think I made a lot of progress during my rookie year," Briggs said. "It was difficult at the time. There was so much information to process and so many things to learn. Now, in a way, we are all rookies again. There are new plays, new coaches, and a new philosophy. I think that because I have been through the transition from college to the pros so recently, I can utilize the same coping mechanisms that helped me succeed last year."

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