2009 Position by Position Review: DE

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. Tuesday, we set our sights on the defensive ends.

2009 Review
Both the Vikings and Colts advanced to Championship Sunday this past weekend by running bend-but-don't-break 4-3 defenses, which can still be done in the NFL if you have pass rushers like Minnesota's Jared Allen and Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney.

Bears coach Lovie Smith remains committed to his Cover-2 version of the 4-3, saying at his season-ending press conference that Chicago's scheme will not change, but the lack of a consistent pass rush the last three seasons has prevented it from being very effective. While right end Alex Brown and left end Adewale Ogunleye are both solid players against the run and pass, the 12.5 sacks they combined to get in 2009 were bettered by five individual players – including Allen (14.5) and Freeney (13.5). The only reserve to get considerable playing time at D-end, Mark Anderson continued to be a disappointment and only recorded 3.5 sacks.

Acquired at the trading deadline to provide a shot in the arm for this year and also down the road, Gaines Adams died tragically Sunday at the age of 26 and makes the future of this position all the more uncertain.

Inside the Numbers
Since the Bears could not get after the enemy passer with any degree of consistency, opposing offenses converted 93 of 226 third-down opportunities on the year. That's a robust 41.2 percent rate of conversion, ranking the Midway Monsters just 27th in the league out of 32 teams.

DE Jarron Gilbert
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Thumbs Up
He'll never be a double-digit sack guy and doesn't belong at right end in a 4-3 because that's the premier pass-rushing position, but Brown plays as hard as any Bears defender and tells it like it is in the locker room after every game. Anderson did show more life in 2009 than he did in either '07 or '08, and he even slid inside to play some tackle on passing downs to give the offense a different look.

Thumbs Down
Ogunleye got off to a smoking-hot start, registering 2.0 sacks in Week 1 at Green Bay and 2.5 in Week 4 against Detroit, but he did nothing after that and missed the final two contests on injured reserve with a fractured fibula. Even though we'll never know how good he may have been since he is no longer with us, Adams made zero impact following the deal that sent him from Tampa Bay to Chicago.

2010 Preview
With both Ogunleye and Anderson having just finished the final year of their respective contracts, Ogunleye is not expected to return but Anderson may stick around if he is a restricted free agent as opposed to unrestricted – that will be the case if there is no new collective bargaining agreement before March.

Either way, the Bears have nobody currently on the roster ready to step in and be the starter at left end, although it would make some sense to move Brown there and then find a more dangerous pass rusher to play over on the right side. That may have been Adams, which unfortunately will not happen now for the saddest of reasons, plus the undersized Anderson failed miserably when asked to be an every-down player ahead of Brown in 2007. Not sure whether he would be a tackle or an end at the next level when he got drafted in the third round last April, Jarron Gilbert seems destined to play left end next year because that's where Chicago needs him.

It's going to be difficult for general manager Jerry Angelo to add an impact D-end in the draft since he doesn't have a pick before Round 3, but that doesn't mean he's going to throw a big bag of money at a premier free agent like Julius Peppers.

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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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