Bears' Tucker has chance to make mark on defense
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) Given the overhaul, this sure seems like coordinator Mel Tucker's big chance to make his mark on the Chicago Bears' defense.
He would rather not acknowledge it.
Tucker shrugged off the idea that this is his time to put his stamp on things even though he has a rebuilt roster that now includes Jared Allen and is no longer running former coach Lovie Smith's scheme as he enters his second season.
''It's a `we' thing,'' he said Sunday. ''It's not my stamp or any particular coach's stamp or any particular player. It's our brand of football, which is best condition, technique of fundamentals, smart, fast and physical. That's what we need to be.''
To many, this could be a ''Tucker thing.''
The Bears are looking for more from a defense that ranked among the worst in franchise history a year ago and are hoping to get back to the playoffs for just the second time since the 2006 team's Super Bowl run.
They boasted one of the league's most prolific offenses last season - coach Marc Trestman's first - but missed the postseason at 8-8 because they simply couldn't stop anyone. Injuries played a big role, but so did poor execution. That left many wondering if Tucker was the right man for the job.
He stayed on. Now, he has another chance.
''I think that Mel certainly gathered a lot of information about our football players that are with us now,'' Trestman said. ''I think he feels very good about the coaches we have surrounded him with to help him to his job. And I think he'll utilize certainly what he learned about our team and the relationships he's developed with our players and our coaches to move forward.''
Gone is Smith's cover-2 defense. Now, Tucker is implementing his system.
He's using different terminology and different schemes this time around after sticking with what had been in place for years. He did that last season because the Bears had so many returning starters and a long history of success in Smith's system.
They're still going with a 4-3 set, but they plan to mix up their alignments. There will be differences in how they approach the run.
Tucker has new assistants in defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, assistant line coach Clint Hurtt and linebackers coach Reggie Herring and a revamped lineup that has expectations soaring.
The biggest addition, of course, is Allen, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end. But it's more than just him.
The Bears also brought in defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. They get a full season with Jeremiah Ratliff, the four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who signed with Chicago in November after being released by Dallas.
Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and D.J. Williams are all healthy after missing significant time, and the Bears believe they are poised to make a big jump after being historically bad on defense last season.
They tied Jacksonville with a league-low 31 sacks and did nothing to stop the run. The 2,583 yards rushing and 5.3 per carry they allowed were both club records. But with so many players going down, it was hard to pin all the struggles on Tucker.
Now, the defense gets a fresh start.
''I'm really excited for (Tucker), on a personal level, and excited for our defense and what we've put together in terms of talent level, our draft, our free agency acquisitions and our coaches,'' Trestman said. ''It's going to be exciting to watch it build on a day-to-day basis.
''It's an opportunity. Everybody's starting over.''
NOTES: Rookie P Patrick O'Donnell drew the biggest cheers Sunday when he booted one about 70 yards or so and was serenaded with ''mega punt!'' chants when he stepped onto the field. ''... The Bears waived G James Dunbar, an undrafted rookie from Texas Christian.
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