BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Henry Melton has always been a stand-up guy. On Tuesday, he became a stand-up defensive tackle, at least for a few plays in 11-on-11 drills.
|Henry Melton attacks a tackling dummy at Bears training camp.|
Melton got out of his customary three-point stance and rushed the passer from a stand-up position, something first-year defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is experimenting with in training camp.
"That's a little wrinkle he's bringing to us," Melton said. "We're just testing it out right now. We're going to see how it works for us, and we'll see if we're going to run it."
A converted college running back who rushed for 10 touchdowns as a freshman at Texas, Melton said he's comfortable rushing the quarterback from a stand-up position because "I'm an athlete."
"Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it," said the 6-3, 295-pounder. "If it's going to help us win, I'm all for it."
Melton wasn't the only member of the defensive line who played in a two-point stance Tuesday.
"Defensively, our front has been moving around," said coach Marc Trestman. "You saw a lot of different looks, which is excellent for the offense because those are the types of things we are going to see throughout the season."
Melton excelled in Tuesday's practice, deflecting two passes that resulted in interceptions. He picked off one himself, returning it for a touchdown.
"It was luck," Melton said. "I just put my hand up and it came to me. It was in the air forever. I just caught it and scored."
Since being selected by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, Melton has appeared in 45 games with 29 starts over four seasons, recording 66 tackles and 15.5 sacks. He was voted to the first Pro Bowl of his career last year after compiling 33 tackles and six sacks.
Melton's 13 sacks over the past two seasons are the second most in the NFL among defensive tackles behind the Bengals' Geno Atkins and the most by a Bears defensive tackle in a two-year span since Tommie Harris had 13 in 2006-07.
Playing the important three-technique position on the Bears defense, Melton knows that his performance is vital to the unit's success.
"If I'm playing at a top level, the sky's the limit for this team," Melton said. "We were 10-6 last year, and I feel like if I hit another gear we could have won a few more games."
The defense sparked the Bears to a 7-1 start in 2012. But the team stumbled down the stretch, losing five of six at one point and ultimately missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.
This season, Melton is looking for the defense to sustain its success.
"We're just looking better and better every day," he said. "We're trying to start how we started last year and keep that momentum through the whole season. We kind of died off towards the end, and we just want to try and keep that going."