Posts Tagged ‘Desmond Clark’

Bears Offer Blue Print To Attack the 3-4 Defense

September 2, 2009

The current NFL fad that seems to have taken hold around the league is the 3-4 defense. With the recent success that the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots have had with the scheme, in a league of imitators, there is a lot of new teams running the scheme.

It also just so happens, that the Bears start the season against two 3-4 defensive scheme teams in the Packers and the Steelers. Both teams are early pre-season contenders for the playoffs, with the Steelers being defending Super Bowl champions and having one of the most dominant defenses in the league.

With this in mind what is the best way for the Bears to deal with the 3-4 defense? Fortunately the Bears likely have the best way to match up with a 3-4 right away and the versatility this offensive scheme offers is invaluable in attacking the 3-4. The two tight end set is ideal for attacking the 3-4 defense, as was shown in early returns against Broncos.

Yes the Broncos don’t have the ideal personnel to run the 3-4, but it does force the Bears to scheme for it. This is what the Bears were able to do with ease and they were effective in both running and passing against the defensive front. The Broncos tended to attack with a five man front against the Bears on rushing situations. The Bears attacked it well with the two-TE set. Olsen and Clark were able to take on the OLBs who they match up well with, and this allowed the Bears to double team the nose tackle.

As everyone knows the engine that makes a 3-4 successful is the NT. He needs to be able to square up on the center, and he’s responsible for two gaps on the defense. If you get a good double team block on him, usually you can negate his effectiveness. Even if it’s only an initial scrape block so that the center or guard can move on to the second level and attack a linebacker it gives the offense the advantage.

One of the main advantages is the versatility the TEs offer. They can attack the OLBs (which is the second key to the 3-4) in the run game, block them straight up in the pass game, or they can sprint out in passing game off of play-action fakes. Evidence the play-action pass to Desmond Clark that went for 25-yards on a third and one play. During that play the linebacker cheated up to stop the run, lined up head up on Clark. Clark threw a little scrape block and then took off on his route. Jay Cutler rolled out of the pocket away from where the lineman took their play-action run block steps to and negated the pass rush. From here it was a simple pass to a wide open Clark that just broke the back of the Broncos.

Since a two TE set also allows the offense to to dictate the game plan to the defense and make them adjust, it puts the offense at a consistent advantage. By utilizing the versatility of a two TE set the Bears can attack with two double teams on the NT and then one of the DEs or elsewhere.

Also the Bears don’t have to keep the two TEs lined up head up on the LBs, one of them can line up in the FB spot thus still giving them a different formation look. Either way the key here is negating the 3-4s versatility and forcing them to react to your set.

The Bears are able to do this better than any team in the NFL with their high versatile TEs. The question is when Desmond Clark gets long in the tooth do the Bears draft another TE that offers as much versatility? Do they keep the two TE set around with Olsen grooming his eventual replacement? I believe so long as the Bears are able to show consistent success against the 3-4 front with the two TE set they should continue to take advantage of it.

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Mini-Camp Position Breakdown: TEs

March 17, 2009

The only reason the Chicago Bears had an even remotely productive passing game last year was because of tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark’s level of play. They were essentially the only real threats in the passing game. They were at times under utilized but also at times completely taken out of the game.

Olsen is to date one of Jerry Angelo’s most successful first round draft picks. Which is really saying anything given the inconsistent level of player from Olsen. Why do I label Olsen as inconsistent? Because all to often last year teams were able to shut him down with their nickel back. Yes that is to say typically a CB or a safety shut Olsen down and kept him covered well enough that he wasn’t in a position to consistently be a threat within the offense. For the Chicago Bears’ offense to be successful and consistent in 2009 Greg Olsen is going to have to change that. Olsen needs to use his size to out muscle any player that is trying to make a play on the ball.

Mini-camp focus should almost primarily consist of Kevin Payne and Charles Tillman harassing Olsen on everyone of his passing routes in man to man coverage. Given Tillman’s physical play as a corner he would be the perfect guy to help develop his skills. Unfortunately neither Tillman or Payne will be participating in the mini-camp so the staff will have to find more ways to punish Olsen. The most important aspect of Olsen’s game is that he should be nearly unstoppable for a player of his size and athleticism. Olsen ran a 4.5 in the combine workout, he’s 6-foot-5 252-pounds so he should easily be dominating in this league. This will be his chance to show he’s taken his game to a new level in preparation for 2009.

Desmond Clark simply makes plays when called upon. Unfortunately Clark is not called upon all to often so his production is limited. Even though Clark is the past and Olsen the future there is still enough consistency in his game that he could be a weapon to help in the consistency in the passing game. Working both TEs into the rotation and offensive game plan at the same time should be given more consideration by Ron Turner. It adds another dimension to the offense and could give the Bears more consistency on third down.

Rookie Kellen Davis had a pretty remarkable first year. He wans’t expected to even make the team by most accounts. But he fought his way on to the team via his blocking ability and special teams play. What would be nice is Davis developing into a mildly consistent pass catching threat over the next couple of years. Davis is after all a TE that is supposed to catch passes. Though his role will never likely be on the level of Greg Olsen. Running a two TE set of the future with both Davis and Olsen being capable of blocking and catching passes would help in the even the Bears move on from the older Desmond Clark or Clark moves on wanting to seek a chance to start.