With the Bears kicking off their rookie minicamp Friday, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker spoke to ChicagoBears.com about the scheme, Shea McClellin's move to linebacker and the draft picks.
How will the defensive scheme look different this year compared to last season?
|Mel Tucker enters his second season as Bears defensive coordinator.
General manager Phil Emery has said that Lance Briggs is the only linebacker who is assured of a starting job. Will the others, such as Shea McClellin, D.J. Williams, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene compete at just one position or will they get reps at multiple spots?
MT: "We've told those guys that they have to know multiple spots from Day 1, so we're going to move those guys around probably as early as the third OTA. Bostic is going to play Mike and Sam, Shea's going to play Sam and Mike, Khaseem will play Will and Sam, and D.J. will primarily play Mike, although he's played outside linebacker over the years. Lance is going to play Will and those other guys are going to compete and we'll see what will be our best combination of guys."
How confident are you that McClellin will make a successful transition from defensive end to linebacker?
MT: "I'm super confident. We want to be big and physical, and he goes from being the smallest guy in the defensive line room to the biggest guy in the linebacker room. He's very athletic. You watch him move around in our offseason program and in our coaching sessions and he looks like a linebacker. He looks at home. He looks very comfortable. When you go back and look at some of his tape from Boise State and the Senior Bowl, he looked comfortable in a two-point stance as well as in space as a rusher and in coverage. He'll tell you that he's comfortable doing that."
Emery said the safety position is wide open. How do you see the position?
MT: "Yes, safety will be wide open. You can put that all in caps. Chris Conte and Craig Steltz are back, and Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings have both started in this league. And then we also have Danny McCray, who's a veteran as well."
Where does fourth-round safety Brock Vereen fit in and what type of chance will he get?
MT: "Like I said, it's wide open, so he'll have an opportunity to come in and compete and show us what he can do. He has tremendous ability. I also like his toughness, his versatility and ability to support the run. He's a high-percentage tackle and he's also done a lot in coverage inside and outside, man coverage and zone, underneath coverage and the deep part of the field. So he'll definitely have the opportunity to come in and compete and we'll see how it shakes out. We're going to play the best guys."
Charles Tillman had only missed seven games in nine seasons before suffering a knee injury and torn triceps last year. Are you concerned about his health entering the 2014 campaign?
MT: "I'm not concerned about it. Injuries are a part of the game. They're very unpredictable. I'm not concerned with his health or where he'll be. I'm glad he's back. He's a good player and he will help us."
What attribute do you like most about first-round cornerback Kyle Fuller?
MT: "There's probably a list of about 25 things that I like about him. If I had to pick one thing I like best it would have to be his toughness."
How important is it to have toughness on defense?
MT: "We want tough, physical, strong players on the defensive side of the ball. We want all of our guys to be able to tackle at every position, and the name of the game is hitting. It's always been that. It really hasn't changed. We don't have any finesse positions, so we're always looking for tough guys."
Joining a defense with two Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Tillman and Tim Jennings, how much playing time do you anticipate Fuller getting as a rookie?
MT: "The way the NFL is right now you're in sub personnel at least half of your total snaps and there are some games that you're in sub personnel pretty much the entire game. So your third corner is like a starter. Your third corner plays as much as your third linebacker, who's a starter in a 4-3 defense. So that third corner is a huge role. Kyle will have an opportunity to compete and if he is the third corner then he'll play a lot."
What are your impressions of second-round defensive tackle Ego Ferguson?
MT: "The kid was very well-coached [at LSU]. It was evident when I watched the tape that he has a really good base of fundamentals and techniques and things like that. He's big and he does a nice job in the run game. He can press blocks. He's athletic, so he's not on the ground a whole heck of a lot. He played against very good competition and he's strong. We think we can develop him as an inside rusher also because of his athletic ability."
What did you see on tape of third-round defensive tackle Will Sutton at Arizona State?
MT: "He showed an ability outside of the run game to be able to win one-on-one in the pass rush. He was a good rusher inside. He's explosive. He's got some juice in there and he has a high motor."
How realistic is it to expect that Ferguson and Sutton both will contribute as rookies as part of the defensive line rotation?
MT: "Both of them have the ability to contribute from a talent standpoint and a potential standpoint. We'll just have to see how it shakes out when they get in here. But they'll get every opportunity to show what they can do. We're going to put the best guys out there in the rotation who give us the best chance to win."