Year in Review: Defensive Ends

While the three technique D-tackle is probably the most important position for the Chicago Bears on defense, it's much easier to play when getting help from the D-ends. That help was difficult to find this past season. Bear Report takes a look back at 2008 for the DEs while also looking ahead to 2009.

2008 Review
Sacks just might be the most overrated statistic in all of football, and that's a tune the Midway Monsters' defensive ends have been singing for quite some time since they don't get very many.

DE Adewale Ogunleye
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

While it may not be necessary to sling the opposing quarterback to the turf four or five times every game, consistent pressure up front and forcing him to get rid of the ball quickly is a necessity for any defense. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the D-linemen more often than not in a Lovie Smith-led defense, as his blitzing packages in the Cover 2 usually only bring one extra rusher as opposed to two or three like you might see in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. And since the defensive tackles are always going to encounter more interference on their way to the passer, that means the defensive ends have to wreak havoc off the edge and get that QB to make some mistakes.

That simply didn't happen often enough for the Bears in 2008, with Alex Brown squeezing the most out of his mediocre talent, Adewale Ogunleye becoming a non-factor way too often, and Mark Anderson completely disappearing after a sensational rookie campaign in '06.

Inside the Numbers
The Bears registered only 28 sacks all year long, with just 12 of them coming from the defensive end position. There were eight individual players that racked up at least 12 sacks by themselves across the NFL, and six of those eight players – maybe it's a coincidence, maybe it's not – had their teams make the playoffs. Anderson has been the biggest mystery, as he burst onto the scene with 12 sacks as a first-year player but has a grand total of two since Week 4 of the 2007 season.

Thumbs Up
Brown may not be dominant and will never put up impressive stats, but he remains one of the better all-around D-ends in the league and is the consummate team player. He preserved two wins all by himself this season. First he stuffed Correll Buckhalter for no gain on fourth down from the shadow of the goal line late in the fourth quarter against the Eagles in Week 4, and then he blocked a Mason Crosby game-winning field goal attempt near the end of regulation versus the Packers in Week 16.

Thumbs Down
Ogunleye followed up a strong 2007 with a disappointing '08, putting together just five sacks and not forcing any fumbles all season long after being among the league leaders in that category last year with six. Not only were his five sacks a weak total, but he got 1.5 in Week 5 at Detroit and 2.0 in Week 12 at St. Louis – two terrible teams with terrible offensive lines. Anderson was last seen in Lake Forest on the back of a milk carton, which is why the coaching staff deserves some blame here for not throwing seventh-round draft pick Ervin Baldwin into the mix at some point to see if he could provide a spark.

2009 Preview
If wide receiver is this team's No. 1 priority on offense this offseason, then defensive end is the No. 1 priority on the defensive side of the ball.

DE Mark Anderson
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Ogunleye is going into the last year of his contract and has a hefty $6.5 million cap number for 2009, so it wouldn't be a total surprise if he was pink-slipped before long. It would then be a smart idea to move Brown from right end over to left end, which might have a two-pronged effect: first, Brown may be more productive by not having to face the offense's most effective blocker each and every snap; second, a spot would then be available at right end for the pure pass rusher this defense so desperately needs. Don't look for a big splash in free agency like Julius Peppers or Terrell Suggs, but using the team's Round 1 selection at No. 18 overall here makes some sense. currently projects four defensive ends as five-star prospects worthy of first-round consideration: Everette Brown of Florida State, Brian Orakpo of Texas, Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech, and Tyson Jackson of LSU.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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