Draft Decisions: Fortified Front Four

The Chicago Bears have many needs heading into the 2009 NFL Draft, and consistent pressure from the front four is the key to this Cover-2 system. An addition at both end and tackle would be nice, but not many are on their radar currently. Bear Report breaks down what to expect this weekend.

Projected Starters: Former Pro Bowler Tommie Harris will obviously be atop the depth chart at the three-technique tackle position, although the nose tackle could be Dusty Dvoracek, Anthony Adams, or Marcus Harrison. As for the two defensive ends, Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye will once again be on the right and left side, respectively. New defensive line coach Rod Marinelli is charged with getting more out of a unit that underperformed this past season.

Expected Reserves: Adams and Dvoracek are similar players, bringing an attitude and defending the run well but not offering much help on the pass rush. Harrison, on the other hand, is a penetrator and showed flashes of big-time ability as a rookie last year, although he's probably a better fit at three technique than nose tackle. The versatile Israel Idonije is moving back to end from tackle, meaning Mark Anderson needs to rediscover the magic he once had if he wants to stay in the rotation.

Round 2 Discussion: While general manager Jerry Angelo said Tuesday that he's comfortable with his current crop of D-linemen, he went on to say he views them in the draft just like he does quarterbacks: he'll never say no if there's good value with a certain pick. There aren't many top-tier ends or tackles the Bears have been linked to, although they did attend the Pro Day for Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech. Of the tackles they've talked to, nobody deserves to be selected before Round 3 or 4.

Day 2 Possibilities: There are a few tackles to be on the watch for, specifically LSU's Ricky Jean-Francois and Georgia Tech's Vance Walker. Jean-Francois looks like a three technique with loads of untapped potential, while Walker is a blue-collar nose tackle and fits the Cover-2 scheme rather well. Chicago only hosted one end for a visit at Halas Hall, and it was unheralded prospect Jamaal Westerman of Rutgers. He's raw, but he's also very fast and explosive off the snap.

Plan of Attack: A lot of Bears fans would love to see Angelo target a pass rusher on Day 1, especially with both Ogunleye and Anderson heading into the final year of their contracts, but he appears content to let Marinelli do his thing and possibly get more production from the current hands on deck. Even though this defense's sack numbers have dwindled since Super Bowl XLI, one could argue tackle is a more likely addition than end. Nose tackle in particular has been a revolving door lately.


Jean-Francois may still have his best football in front of him. (Dave Martin/Getty Images)

JC's Take: Angelo made an interesting comment at the annual pre-draft luncheon Tuesday at Halas Hall, saying that defensive end is usually a boom-or-bust position and some don't do anything for you unless they're double-digit sack guys.

That sounds like a thinly-veiled swipe at Anderson, who was sensational as a rookie with 12 sacks but has pulled a Houdini-like disappearing act ever since. He failed miserably when forced into the starting lineup ahead of Brown in 2007, but then he couldn't get back to his sack-specialist ways in '08 when coming off the bench again. Idonije has always been a favorite of the coaching staff and performed very well in stretches this past year at tackle, so he wouldn't be making the switch back to end unless Lovie Smith and Co. tend to use him there.

As far as this weekend is concerned, it seems all the national pundits feel D-end is a much higher priority for this team than the decision makers in Lake Forest do.


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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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