Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune desccribes where he thinks the position of edge rusher is as the Bears remake their defense into a 3-4 base:
“Take your notions about a 4-3 end and save them for sub packages. While the Bears are in their base grouping, which general manager Ryan Pace has approximated will be 40 percent of the time, defensive ends primarily are big-bodied run stuffers. Like the nose tackle, they’re generally asked to occupy offensive linemen and keep the linebackers free to make tackles.
There are some 3-4 ends who disrupt the quarterback and wreak havoc in the backfield — think Texans star J.J. Watt; and new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fango had one in the 49ers’ Justin Smith — but they’re more of an exception to the rule.
“The Bears want their base ends to be at least 280 pounds, which is necessary to anchor against blocks. “
Campbell confirms what I suspect. The Bears are likely going to take their linemen as they come and adapt the scheme aroud them. Ideally they’d like J.J. Watt. But they’ll settle for Ray McDonald and Jarvis Jenkins occupying linemen and the scheme will work just fine.
The philosophy probably extends to the nose tackle as well. Ideally you’d like to be strong up the middle with Vince Wilfork occupying blockers and getting some pass rush up the middle where you can get it. But they’ll make due with 303 lb Jeremiah Ratliff penetrating and be happy with that if they have to. It won’t be the best thing for the inside linebackers but it can work as many teams – including the 49ers under Fangio who have 318 lb Quinton Dial starting at nose tackle – have shown.
Bottom line, we really won’t know what the Bears will show in term of scheme next year until we see the players. They’ll adjust the scheme – which I think we all know will be multiple anyway – to what they have. That’s going to be a good thing for Bears general manager Ryan Pace. He’s going to be open to finding players who are the best at what they do almost no matter what that is. That’s going to maximize the size of the available pool and increase his chances of finding impact personnel. And arguably they’re the ones who win ball games.