As we've written many times before, Lovie Smith's version of the Cover-2 defense he employs with the Monsters of the Midway simply does not work without consistent pressure on the passer.
The defensive end position in particular didn't live up to its end of the bargain this past season, as neither Alex Brown nor Adewale Ogunleye was much of a factor up front – plus Mark Anderson continued his mysterious disappearing act from 2007. That three-man rotation combined for just 12 quarterback sacks, a number that was equaled or bettered by eight individual players across the league. Getting sacks and winning football games aren't necessarily correlated, but it is interesting to note that of the 12 defenders in the NFL that registered double-digit QB takedowns, 10 of them saw their teams qualify for the postseason.
Both Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo downplayed the Bears' need for new blood at defensive end when speaking at the Scouting Combine last month, even though some experts have Chicago addressing that spot in Round 1 of the draft.
One of the premier D-end prospects put on a show Monday and solidified himself as being ready for a first-round selection, and the Midway Monsters were one of 26 teams on hand to walk away impressed.
As reported by Gil Brandt on NFL.com, Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech drew the attention of Bears' scouts at his Pro Day in Atlanta.
Johnson (6-7, 266) just looked like he belonged lining up at end in a 4-3 and at outside linebacker in the 3-4, posting 40-yard dash times of 4.61 and 4.64 seconds, doing 23 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds, and completing the three-cone drill in a speedy 7.42 seconds. Possessing tremendous size, long arms, and an explosive first step, he has somewhat of a lanky frame yet a lot of room to grow while maintaining his elite athleticism. He'll be labeled as a workout warrior by some scouts since his numbers never truly reflected his talent, but he could be a star at the next level if put in the right system and given the proper coaching.
While Chicago has a more immediate need to fill on the defensive side of the ball at safety, projected starters Kevin Payne and Craig Steltz would instantly become better players if they didn't have to cover for so long.
After departing the combine in Indy with a late first- or early second-round grade, Johnson now appears worthy of the Bears' pick at No. 18 overall in Round 1.
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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.
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