Chicago Bears Huddle draft notebook: Shoring up holes on defense

Chicago Bears Huddle draft notebook: Shoring up holes on defense
Browns' safety T.J. Ward (43)

Draft Big Board

  1. Kony Ealy – DE/Missouri
  2. Ha’Sean Clinton – Dix- Safety/Alabama
  3. Justin Gilbert – CB/Oklahoma St
  4. C.J. Mosley – ILB/Alabama
  5. Aaron Donald – DT/Pittsburgh
  6. Ra’Sheade Hageman – DL/Minnesota
  7. Stephon Tuitt – DL/Notre Dame
  8. Louis Nix – NT/Notre Dame
  9. Darqueze Dennard – CB/Michigan St
  10. Calvin Pryor – Safety/Louisville
  11. Trent Murphy – DE/OLB/Stanford
  12. Timmy Jernigan – DT/Florida St
  13. Taylor Lewan – OT/Michigan
  14. Eric Ebron – TE/North Carolina
  15. Cyrus Kouandijo – OT/Alabama

Player Spotlight: Kony Ealy – DE, Missouri

STRENGTHS: Ealy’s athleticism jumps off the tape. Operating at LDE for the Tigers, Ealy showed good initial quickness off the snap to force right tackles into respecting his speed rush. He also has a quick spin move back to the inside to complement his speed. Perhaps best of all, when he gets a lane, Ealy closes quickly on the ball-carrier.

WEAKNESSES: Ealy is prone to coming off the snap too high, making himself vulnerable to cut blocks. He also spends too much time battling with blockers at the line of scrimmage, needing to improve his hand play to disengage quicker, as well as showing better awareness of where the ball is headed.

Via ROB RANG of CBS Sports

My Analysis: Ealy has been compared to 49ers’ OLB Aldon Smith. While I don’t completely agree with the comparison, I do feel Ealy could be the next great pass rusher to come out of the Missouri program. Ealy has all the tools to be a great all-around DE at the next level. He has the speed and athleticism to line up at RDE and rush the QB from his blindside, and he has shown the strength and outside containment to defend the run from the LDE position.

Ealy can line up at either DE spot and have a big impact on the game. If the Chicago Bears do indeed part ways with Julius Peppers and are looking for a young player in the draft to fill his shoes, Ealy is one of the very few DEs with the ability to do that. Ealy would be a nice young building block on a defensive line that needs pieces all-around.

Shoring up the defense

General manager Phil Emery has a lot of work to do to repair arguably the worst defense in recent franchise history. The defensive line needs to be overhauled, they’re unsure at a couple LB spots, they need another starting corner to compliment Pro Bowl veteran Tim Jennings, and they could certainly use a new pair of starting safeties.

Attempting to put my feet in Emery’s shoes, here’s the approach I would take to shore up the defense via the draft and free agency:

Defensive Tackle

Ideal target: Linval Joseph – Giants

Draft target: Anthony Johnson – LSU (third round projection)

The Bears have a massive hole in their depth chart at DT with Henry Melton and Jeremiah Ratliff set to become free agents in March, and they will need to double dip in this position. Ratliff would be a cheap option to bring back, but at 33 years-old he goes against Emery’s angle of getting young on defense.

If the Bears are going to make a defensive line splash in free agency, Linval Joseph is a young up and coming DT who fills a big need for a team looking for a run-stuffing DT. Joseph is also not just a run stuffer, as Pro Football Focus credited him with four sacks and 11 QB hurries.

In the draft, a prospect like Anthony Johnson, who is quick and athletic, would be an ideal complement to pair with the 325 pound Joseph. A DT rotation of Joseph, Johnson and Stephen Paea could help to resolve the interior run defense while also providing an interior pass rush.

Defensive End

Ideal target: Re-sign Corey Wootton

Draft target: Kony Ealy – Missouri (first round projection)

Julius Peppers is set to be an 18 million dollar cap hit in 2014, which is a bit too big for a player who didn’t come close to performing like an elite defensive end last season. I assume Emery is going to cut the 34 year-old and take 10 million in cap space back. So with Peppers gone, should the Bears spend big bucks for a pass rushing DE?

The best bet is for them to find a young impact DE with their first pick in the draft and re-sign Corey Wootton. Wootton was primed for a breakout season in 2013 until injuries at the DT position forced the coaching staff to play Wootton inside more than they had intended to.

Wootton showed that he’s more than capable of holding his own at DT. His versatility will be valuable as the defense will likely move to more of a hybrid front. Second to Jadeveon Clowney, Kony Ealy is the best combination of size, speed and athleticism at the DE position. The combination of Wootton and Ealy would give the defense promising young bookends at DE.

Inside Linebacker

Ideal target: Re-sign D.J. Williams

Before his season-ending injury, Williams was playing pretty good football. Emery signed him to a one-year deal last off-season, but it’s likely that Williams would want more stability this time around. Regardless, bringing him back would make sense and would give Mel Tucker an ILB with experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts.

Williams showed in his brief playing time with the Bears last season that he could be an effective blitzer and has the speed, quickness and instincts to make plays around and behind the line of scrimmage. For a few a years, Williams can be a bridge at the MLB spot until Emery finds one in the draft or develops the ones he already has.

Cornerback

Ideal target: SIGNED Tim Jennings

Draft target: Stanley Jean Baptiste (second round projection)

The Bears re-signed Pro Bowler Tim Jennings to a four-year deal immediately following the regular season. Jennings gives the Bears a veteran presence in the secondary, and he’s a ball-hawking corner whose coverage skills have dramatically improved over the past couple years.

But if the Bears want to become a more physical secondary they will need to find a big corner in the draft to pair with Jennings. Stanley Jean Baptiste is not only a physical corner; he displays great ball skills and the instincts to develop into a shutdown-type player. A combo of Jennings and Jean Baptiste would give the Bears physical, playmaking CBs.

Safety

Ideal target: T.J. Ward

Draft target: Tre Boston (fourth round projection)

The big splash in free agency for the Bears should come at safety. Jarius Byrd is the top rated player at the position, but he’s likely going to stay put in Buffalo. T.J.Ward, however, could be available, as the Cleveland Browns’ SS has been one of the more underrated safeties in the league the past few seasons.

The Bears need a savvy veteran next to FS Chris Conte, assuming he is brought back to compete for his job. If that is the case, I expect Emery to draft a safety somewhere in the third-to-fifth rounds.

A prospect like North Carolina’s Tre Boston would be intriguing to bring in and see if he can wrestle away the starting spot from Conte. Boston is a pure ball-hawking safety who would be a great compliment to the physical Ward.

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