In a Defensive State of Mind

The Bears went into the draft saying they had "wants' and not "needs. General manager Jerry Angelo went out of his way to prove his point by taking three defensive players on the first day of the draft. For a team that gave up the fewest points in the NFL and finished toward the bottom of the league in scoring it's a questionable plan.

There's an old adage in the NFL that defense wins championships. Angelo must have written a thesis on the philosophy. After trading out of the 26th pick, the Bears used the 42nd, 57th and 73rd selections to help arguably the league's best defense. The first two picks addressed the secondary and return game, while the final selection boosted the depth at defensive tackle.

The Bears tried to use the beset available athlete as their defense for ignoring an offense that averaged 16.2 points per game.

"As we went into the draft (it was) value at the pick that we had," said Coach Lovie Smith. "There were a lot of good football players, but just felt like every guy we took today there was value at that pick.

"As you're trying to improve your football and you're not held hostage to a certain poison, you can take the best available guy that you think will fit into the team atmosphere that we're trying to create here and that's what we were able to do."

In all honesty it's hard to truly evaluate any draft hours after its completion. After one day the Bears seemingly forgot how bad the offense was for much of last year.

The running game survived despite a passing attack that ranked 31st in the league. Obviously having a rookie behind center had an impact on the number, but giving the offense more weapons could only help the unit improve.

Angelo and company talked about adding more speed on defense. The way Steve Smith torched the secondary in the playoff loss left a bad memory heading into the off-season and the Bears acted accordingly.

Over the last week the Bears added Ricky Manning, Devin Hester and Danieal Manning to the secondary mix.

Ricky Manning seemed to fill the need for another cornerback on the first day of the draft, but the Bears found Hester's 4.3 forty speed too hard to pass up. From the safety position, Danieal Manning is in the 4.5 range and can also contribute in the return game.

"To some degree you also have to take into account the need for top end speed, big time speed," said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. "I think I think we're a faster defense with the addition of these two young men."

If the Bears would have added one player on offense it could have been considered a much more productive day. There is a desperate need to upgrade tight end position. However, the Bears don't value the position.

"If tight end is critical and we had a need for it, we would have taken one today," Angelo said. "But we didn't say we needed a tight end, we said we wanted to upgrade at the position if we could."

Instead Angelo decided to use the final selection of the day on Oklahoma DT Dusty Dvoracek. The Bears want an insurance policy if Terry Johnson isn't ready by the start of the season with a torn calf. Still the rotation at defensive tackle includes starters Tommie Harris and Ian Scott followed by reserves Alfonso Boone and Israel Idonije.

Leonard Pope, who the Bears didn't like, went one selection ahead of the Bears third round pick. USC's Dominique Byrd and Texas' David Thomas went off the board by the end of the third round.

Even wide receiver could have been addressed before and after the trade. The Bears had a chance to take Florida's Chad Jackson with the 26th pick. After trading out of the slot, Sinorice Moss was still on the board at 42 but the Bears decided to go defense.

Now the Bears will have to hope Mark Bradley and Bernard Berrian can stay on the field long enough to take a major step forward.

It seems like an odd plan for a defense that carried the team to the playoffs in 2005.


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