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
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.
Scout.com 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 BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Year in Review: Defensive Ends
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