Staring Role

Keith McKenzie's role on the Bears defensive line could soon increase. When Phillip Daniels went down with a sprained left ankle against the Vikings, McKenzie stepped in at right end and played the majority of the game.

The veteran signed a three-year deal with Chicago during the off-season to provide depth on the defensive line. He has pass rush capabilities as he had eight sacks in three consecutive seasons before going down with a season-ending ankle injury in 2001. The question is can he play the run.

The Vikings totaled 136 yards rushing against the Bears, which is the most the team allowed since Chicago played Green Bay last December when the Packers had 167 yards on the ground. However, the Vikings total in the season opener would have been the second most allowed last year. The Bears gave up an average of just 71 yards per game last season.

Daniels is a big reason why the defense is so successful against a ground attack. He is a rare commodity at right end in that he can rush the passer and play the run. Head coach Dick Jauron knows the Bears lost their best athlete on the defensive line.

"It hurt us in a number of different areas when we lost him," Jauron said. "I'm not slighting Keith McKenzie or Joe Tafoya, but Phillip really had a terrific preseason. That was a big loss for us. But I would attribute their running the ball to the fact that they blocked us. They did a nice job. They executed and we did not at times, so the credit goes to them."


Bear Report Top Stories