2009 Position by Position Review: DT

After a disappointing 7-9 record in 2009, it's time to take a look back at the Chicago Bears and discover what went right and what went so incredibly wrong. Monday, we deconstruct the defensive tackles.

2009 Review
Lovie Smith's version of the Cover 2 simply does not work unless there is consistent pressure from the front four, especially up the middle from the two tackles, which helps explain why the Bears were disappointing on D for the third straight campaign.

He showed flashes of his former Pro Bowl self because he has too much talent to hide it all the time, but Tommie Harris was once again maddeningly inconsistent and even got deactivated for one game by Smith – whether it was a physical thing or a mental thing was bandied about liberally. Marcus Harrison slid to Round 3 of the 2007 NFL Draft despite first-round talent, although he showed up to training camp out of shape and is still yet to prove he can be a difference maker on Sunday. And for some reason, the coaching staff always disrespects Anthony Adams and looks for any excuse it can find to decrease his playing time, even though he is always productive and brings a lot of energy to the huddle.

While Israel Idonije did some good things on passing downs as one of the lightest D-tackles in football, Dusty Dvoracek missed all of 2009 with a torn ACL and has now played just 13 of 64 possible games in four years.

Inside the Numbers
Sacks can be an overrated statistic, as most coaches would rather have a bunch of hurries every game instead of a single sack, but the Bears only got eight of them all season from their defensive tackles: 2.5 each from Harris and Idonije, two from Adams and one from Harrison. Savvy rushers will get their hands up and try to swat down the throw if they're not getting pressure on a particular play, but Harris and Adams had just one pass defense each, while Idonije and Harrison were shut out entirely.

DT Anthony Adams
Getty Images: Jed Jacobsohn

Thumbs Up
While he may never be good enough to start at any of the positions along the defensive line, Idonije is a quality reserve at all four of them and continues to make plays on special teams, as well. Adams needs to be the starter at nose tackle once and for all, as 44 total tackles from a position not designed to make a lot of tackles is quite commendable.

Thumbs Down
Credit Harris for performing well after his one-game deactivation at Cincinnati in Week 7, although it didn't make much of a difference since the defense was still getting shredded, plus his sucker punch of Deuce Lutui and subsequent ejection on the first series of the Cardinals game in Week 9 was inexcusable. Dvoracek was a long shot to return next season because of his lengthy injury history, so his arrest this past weekend for getting into a bar fight near the campus of his alma mater most likely ends his Bears career.

2010 Preview
The future of the defensive line will hinge on what happens in June, when Harris has a $2.5 million roster bonus due and the Bears must decide if the three-time Pro Bowler – none since 2007, remember – is worth another investment.

Since he plays the single most important position in Smith's entire scheme, the three-technique tackle, Harris is critical to the overall success of this defense and can be dominating when he's operating at full capacity. But it's hard to ignore the fact that Harris has changed to some degree since signing his four-year, $40 million contract extension, whether he cares to admit it or not. Should general manager Jerry Angelo have the courage to fall on his sword and move on without Harris, look for Idonije to get first crack at the starting job and third-round draft pick Jarron Gilbert to perhaps slide back inside from left end.

If the Bears are committed to the Cover 2, and Smith said at his season-ending press conference that the system would not change so long as he is in Chicago, success or failure could very well come down to the three technique – with or without Harris.

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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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