Immediate Impact Needed

There were 8 defensive linemen taken in the first 15 picks a year ago. Only Terrell Suggs and Kevin Williams had major impacts in their rookie campaigns. The Bears will need Tommie Harris to be a major contributor for the defense to progress, as Lovie Smith desires.

"I think defensive tackles in general do struggle in the first round," Smith said. "We don't think he's going to struggle any more than rookie quarterbacks and rookies in general would struggle."

At 6-2.5 and 295 pounds, Harris is the prototypical tackle in Smith's speed emphasized defense, which could help his learning curve.

"He's exactly the picture that you look for when you're trying to get a defensive tackle in our system. So hopefully that (struggling) won't happen with him," Smith said.

Harris had been projected to go as high as 5th overall choice to Washington, but he slipped when 7 picks of the first 13 picks were either receivers or quarterbacks.

"I believe I deserve to, but who cares about all that. I'm a Chicago Bear now and all I can do is show them what they missed and I believe I can do that well," Harris said about falling out of the top ten.

Still Harris was the first d-lineman off the board when the Bears took him with the 14th pick. He's also the first DT the Bears have selected in the first-round since they took William "The Refrigerator" Perry out of Clemson in 1985.

The tackle position needed a playmaker desperately, since it is currently populated by players who are worthy of backup status or stopgap starters on decent units. Starters Alfonso Boone and Bryan Robinson are backed up by Ian Scott and Tron LaFavor, neither was terribly impressive last season.

Robinson was supposed to be more at home inside after he moved from DE, but he hasn't made much of an impact, doesn't provide much pass rush and is not a stout run stuffer. Boone can stuff the run, but he may not have the quickness or athleticism to thrive in Ron Rivera's defense. As rookies last season, Tron LaFavor and Ian Scott didn't look to be much more than backups.

"We would like to have a three-man rotation at a lot of our defensive positions. We're going to put Tommie there," Smith said. "As rookies, you put them there and they'll determine when they're ready to play and how much they'll play. I think in time he'll be one of those guys that will play quite a bit for us."

Eighteen team sacks last season placed the Bears dead last in the NFL and set a new low for the franchise. Alex Brown was a dangerous pass rusher in college, and he had a team-best 5 1/2 last season. The Bears need more from DRE, and Brown might be able to provide that if he continues to improve and shows more quickness after losing 10-12 pounds. DLE Michael Haynes was a pass-rushing terror at Penn State but had just 2 sacks last season. Getting smaller this season should help him, too.

The Bears lack of pass rush from the front-four last year forced defensive coordinator Greg Blache to send blitzes, which put a lot of pressure on the unit when the extra men didn't reach the quarterback.

Although Harris had just nine sacks in three seasons at Oklahoma, he should improve the pass rush. Bob Stoops used a rotation on the defensive line that limited Harris' opportunities not to mention he was consistently double and tripled teamed.

"When he was in a one-on-one situation he generally dominated play, but most teams schemed against him and put two or three people on him," said Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel.

While Harris will have to prove he's worthy of a double-team on the NFL level, his high motor play should improve the defense on the line of scrimmage.

"Specifically, we rely on a four-man rush to get pressure. We would like to sack the quarterback with one of our four guys instead of relying on the blitz," Smith said. "We would like him to be able to get pressure and beat the guard from time to time and get sacks and at least cause havoc inside at that three technique position."


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