Chicago Bears’ Transition to 3-4 Becoming More Realistic

By Clyde A. Speller
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

There has been some speculation that a defensive change is on the horizon for the Chicago Bears going into the 2014 season. So far, they have cut ties with defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar. General manager Phil Emery didn’t waste any time in filling those vacancies. The Bears just added Reggie Herring and Paul Pasqualoni as their new linebackers coach and defensive line coach respectively.

Herring previously was the linebackers coach for the Dallas Cowboys (2008-10) and the Houston Texans (2011-13), while Pasqualoni spent the last three seasons as the head coach for the University of Connecticut. Both Herring and Pasqualoni have familiarity of the 3-4 defensive alignment.

Mel Tucker spent his first year as Chicago’s defensive coordinator using the Cover-2 scheme in a 4-3 alignment, which was previously implemented by former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. As a result, the Bears’ defense had arguably their worst season in franchise history.

They were tied for last in the NFL in sacks (31), and their average of 161.4 rushing yards allowed per game was by far the league’s worst.

The transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 seems much more realistic because before coming to the Windy City, Tucker also coordinated defenses in that scheme. Tucker was the DC for the Cleveland Browns (2008) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-11). Furthermore, in 2011, Jacksonville’s defense was ranked sixth in the NFL.

If this information doesn’t convince you that Chicago’s defense will transition to a 3-4, then take into consideration that prior to becoming the head coach at UConn, Pasqualoni was the Cowboys’ DC/DL coach in 2010, and has familiarity with defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who was a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas’ 3-4 scheme. This could be more of a reason to resign Ratliff.

With the resent moves the Bears have made thus far, the chances of a defensive tackle being selected with their 14th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft seems to have dramatically increased. This has also enhanced the possibility of Shea McClellin being moved from defensive end to outside linebacker.

The only dilemma is what will happen to savvy veterans Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman if this change occurs. I don’t see Briggs as a primary pass rusher on the outside, so I guess they’ll move him to the inside. As for the aging Peppers, the organization could either keep him, release him or trade him in order to free up some cap room. Regardless of the defensive alignment, I think that it would be in the team’s best interest to keep Tillman, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the official end of the season, on the roster.

Emery didn’t pull any punches when it was time to make a change on the offensive side of the ball last offseason. Looking at how things are falling into place, don’t be surprised to see the same thing happen to the Bears’ defense in the near future as well.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.

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