Posts Tagged ‘Mark Anderson’

Pre-Season Indications: The Pass Rush Is Back

September 2, 2009

While most fans and analysts agree that the pre-season isn’t a great indication of how things will go, I’m going to step up and disagree with that assessment. Having seen all three of the Bears’ pre-season games to this point I can clearly say without much hesitation that the pass rush is back.

The Bears’ defense struggled last year against the pass, and it was the main reason they missed the playoffs. Meanwhile in 2009 the CB situation is far from settled and most fans would prefer to see a ball hawking free safety back there, the bottom line is thee success of this defense starts with the front four.

The top off-season priority was to find a way to fix the pass rush and to do it without overhauling the current crop of defensive lineman who were so successful in 2006 together. Enter Rod Marinelli one of the preeminent defensive line coaches in the league, if not the last couple decades. Marinelli’s resume speaks for itself although most Bears fans see only 0-16 and the coach of the Detroit Lions.

However Lovie Smith knows Marinelli well and knew that he was just the guy to fix the front four. There was a reason Smith called him the biggest free-agency acquisition of the 2009 off-season. Marinelli is a motivator of men, and is all football all the time. Toss in that he may be one of the best teachers of the game and is a disciple of the Tampa-2 defense and the choice was an easy and obvious one.

I predict and can say that it has already paid huge dividends for the Bears’ defense. While most fans remain skeptical the fact of the matter is the Bears’ pass rush has improved and it has improved drastically. The Bears currently rank eighth in the league with a pre-season total of 11 sacks. So? It’s the pre-season come the naysayers, fine but consider the opponents the Bears’ pass rush has looked the best against, the Giants and the Broncos.

Then the naysayers come with “the Broncos only allowed one sack the entire game”. Yes I’m aware of the stat, but the Broncos’ offensive line was also the cause of numerous holding penalties. A sign that the Bears’ defensive line was particular aggressive and dominating to the point that they had no choice but to grab and hold.

The Broncos mind you were the best offensive line in the league in pass protection last year. The Broncos only allowed 12 sacks on the season which good for first overall. Part of this has to do with Jay Cutler’s ample mobility and the other part would be they simply were good. Considering how many pass attempts the Broncos and Cutler attempted last year you can certainly see just how well they were in protecting the passer.

Cutler attempted 616 passes last year and was sacked the aforementioned 12 times. An average of 1 sack every 51 pass attempts. A phenomenal stat in pass protection for the Broncos. Yet the Bears’ offensive line did well to attack that well protecting front.

Not only are the sack totals up during the pre-season the intensity level is up. The D-Line seems to never quit on the pass rush and it shows. If one player gets the penetration forcing the QB to step up or move around in the pocket, typically someone else is there to make the sack. The front’s motor never seems to stop where as last year if they were stopped on their initial moves they seemed to just stop.

There is a clear difference in motivation along the front four. A never ending collective effort to get pressure and they have been successful. What also is a healthy indication is it’s not just the starters that have performed well. The backups have been just as intense and just as focused. Add on that the Bears will use a healthy rotation among the 11 members of the front four they could keep and the future looks bright.

There seems to finally be an intense focus as well as a realization of how important the “rush men” are to the success of the defense. The line has bought into what Marinelli is yelling, but more importantly they are learning from what he is teaching. The improvement to this point, has been visible to the untrained eye and that has the makings of what could be a very exciting season of Chicago Bears football.

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Will the Light Bulb Come Back On For Mark Anderson?

August 9, 2009

Mark Anderson had 12 sacks as a rookie during the Super Bowl run of 2006. Since then he has had two sacks over a total of two seasons. He’s been one of the greatest disappointments on the team with his hustle and pass rushing ability and his seemingly one dimensional attack at rushing the passer. Anderson has two moves, speed to the outside and a spin move he incorporates into his repertoire that really hasn’t had much success. He’s essentially been a one trick pony that was figured out after his rookie year and it’s effected his confidence level.

Enter Rod Marinelli one of the best if not the best defensive line coach in the NFL. Marinelli has lit a fire under Anderson’s butt if for no other reason than Anderson realizes his career may not be safe. Anderson has responded to Marinelli’s fire and passion and looks like he might be heading towards a solid season.

The Bears would need precisely this from Anderson as the Bears held the lead in the fourth quarter in 11 of their games in 2008. Had the defense held onto that lead in the fourth quarter it would have been 11 wins for the Bears a division crown and a home game in the playoffs in January.

This is yet another sign to exactly how close the Bears were to being dominant in 2008. The defense stuffed the run and performed well enough to put the Bears in position to win in the fourth quarter. So with Anderson pretty much being a situational rusher who comes in to bring speed off the edge on passing downs a return to form would truly benefit the win column.

Anderson has the tools and the talent he just needs the right motivation and right leadership from the right coach. Marinelli appears to be just the coach that Anderson ordered. Anderson has good size, very good if not great speed off the edge and a good motor that keeps running.

So far in camp he has shown some flashes of returning to form. Little plays here and there that say he may be able to be counted on once again. The nice thing however is that he may not have to be the only one counted on, with the help the Bears brought in via the draft. Jarron Gilbert figures to be a force in the pass rush with his burst up field that has caused problems for the offense at times in camp.

A slimmed down and more speedy Israel Idonije is another stout player who could benefit the pass rush as well. All in all the defensive line is deeper.

53-man battle royale: Mark Anderson

May 15, 2009

Where have you gone Mark Anderson of 2006? The rookie sensation who had 12 sacks over 16 games as a part time starter for the NFC Champion Chicago Bears. Anderson also caused four fumbles on his way to a run at the defensive rookie of the year honors.

However if you closely examine Anderson’s 2006 season you find that his success came in spurts, but also came against some of the worst pass protecting offenses in the league for that year.

When you break it down, Anderson had 8.5 sacks against teams that were in the bottom ten in the league in sacks allowed on the season. Anderson had 2.5 sacks against the Detroit Lions, 2.0 against the Buffalo Bills, 2.0 against the Seattle Seahawks, 2.0 against the St. Louis Rams, teams that were just awful in pass protection in 2006.

With this type of production against teams that were this bad at protecting the passer it’s easy to see how Anderson’s numbers were so inflated. Feasting against the worst pass protecting teams is exactly the reputation Anderson built for himself.

So the question is will he be able to better take advantage of Rod Marinelli’s arrival and get back to that level of production?

I find the likelihood of that to be highly unlikely. Anderson has some natural pass rushing ability, but there isn’t one aspect of his game that he does very well. He has decent size to be a weak-side pass rusher at 6-foot-4 255-pounds. But he is under-sized by the regular standards of what would be considered ideal.

Anderson’s speed off the edge is also not very impressive for a player who needs to be making his living off of rushing the QB. While he may have the most speed off the edge of any player on the Bears’ roster, it’s inadequate. Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye have average speed at best when it comes to running the curve.

While Brown has superb closing speed and both the starters hold up well against the run, getting to the QB is the weak point of their games.

You can even argue that Ogunleye has given up at this point in his career given how big of a failure he has been in Chicago.

Anderson further hurts himself by not being able to hold up well against the run thus limiting his role to a third down rusher. As a starter Anderson was man-handled against the run making it easy for teams to run at him.

The only plus side of Anderson’s failure was the fire it lit under the ass of Alex Brown. Brown has in turn become one of the best DEs in the league against the run. Brown saved the game against the Eagles with his fourth and one stop on the goal-line.

With the arrival of both Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton Anderson may be on his last chance to be a part of the D-Line rotation. Both the rookies have attributes that Anderson lacks. Also by virtue of their draft standing this year they are both guaranteed a spot on the roster.

So the battle for Anderson may be for his very NFL career this year. With Marinelli here, and a load of competition behind him it’s Anderson’s year to put up or shut up. If he doesn’t show signs of big things in the pre-season you will likely see him not a part of the Bears’ final 53-man roster.

NFL Prospects Release Pro Day Workout Info

March 1, 2009

As you can imagine college pro days can be just as important to a prospect’s chances as the NFL combine. It’s one of those last couple of chances that they have to make a good impression. Some schools put on two pro days a year and some prospects are personally invited to work out at a team’s practice facility to really strut their stuff.

Last year Matt Forte did all of the above and was invited to Halas Hall where he performed well enough that when he was there in the second round it was a foregone conclusion. MMI will be certain to follow these pro days as well as any prospects invited to Halas Hall to workout.

MMI will closely monitor all of the major program pro dates but also some of the not so prestigious programs who have prospects the Bears may target.

College Pro Date List

NFL Draft Combine Updates D-Lineman and LBs

February 24, 2009

Getting back into the combine we come to the coverage of some of my favorite players in all of football. The defensive front seven, war hogs of hell. I’ve grown up a Chicago Bears fan, so it’s easy to see that this is just naturally in my blood to root for and watch these gladiators. It’s simple really the Bears didn’t get the nickname “The Monsters of the Midway” from their history on offense.

With that said I plan to keep a close eye on the DEs and some of the LBs because whether Bears fans are ready to admit it or not it maybe time to start looking for a player who could push Urlacher for playing time, and perhaps be the future. Urlacher got old fast by football standards and we may only get one perhaps two decent years out of him production wise.

First up in the 40-yard dash is a player that has been mentioned a lot around here. DE Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech who has all the athletic measurables in the world by all accounts, but apparently needs a heart transplant. I however am of the opinion that if he has first round type talent and dips to far into the 2nd or maybe even the third round he may be to tempting to pass up. A lot of people questioned Simeon Rice’s heart for a number of years when he was with the Arizona Cardinals, but Rod Marinelli got a lot out of him during his tenure in Tampa Bay. Johnson’s measurables are similar in stature at 6-7 266-pounds.

As expected Johnson blows it up in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.66. That’s moving down the line for a player of his size. Most LBs can’t run that fast. He looks the part that they say, he’s built, cut, trim, well proportioned…he has it all…..lub dub, lub dub….lub dub aside.

Next up is a four-year starter at DT from Iowa Mitch King. Mayock instantly addresses the heart issue with Johnson by comparing him to King who is a white farm bred boy who’s 6-1 281. “I tell you what if did a heart transplant between Johnson and King you would have a Hall of Fame DE.” King is a kid who is really to small to play DT, to big to play DE, but he just flat out makes plays.”

King definitely looks good running his 40-yard dash doing so in 4.81, which is pretty darn good for a DT prospect. I’m with Mayock you can’t coach heart or work ethic so you’d like to hope that King winds up somewhere and has a good career. You root for the guys that just love to battle in the trenches and epitomize every work hard superlative compliment you can throw out there.

One of the heroes from the Sugar Bowl victory for the Utah Utes steps to the line for his 40-yard dash. 6-4 263 DE a RS Sophomore for the Utes. Mayock rates him as #5 on his list of top DEs in this draft. Paul “Freddy” Kruger runs a 4.84 in the 40-yard dash. Like what you see from a kid who has spent his entire career underrated, undre recruited, and under respected. Perfect fit as a later round selection if he lasts that long runs a 4.84 40-yard dash.

Someone that definitely triggers debate is up DT from USC Fili Moala 6-4 308-pounds. Loved by the likes of Mel Kiper Jr and especially Todd McShay. Played next to and benefited from the production of Sedrick Ellis from USC last year. A prospect that I haven’t always felt was as highly regarded as McShay or Kiper Jr crowed about. I’m able to separate USC generated hype from actual production. Moala IMO is that type of player not as consistent or as dominant as he should be for a player rumored to be as talented as he is.

Just as I finish typing this it’s precisely what the two ex scouts from the NFL Network get into. They talk about how he is a high level talented guy but you just don’t see enough out of him to be blown away. Moala gets down the line in 5.14 in the 40-yard dash. Average among DTs just another thing that says what I’ve been saying all along about USC football players. Are there great ones that come out of USC? You bet, Sedrick Ellis was one of them I had him ahead of the Glen Dorsey last year. However things in the NFL always tend to even themselves out amongst players and some of the Trojans end up being exposed.

As I finish typing about a Trojan yet another one steps to the line. Kyle Moore 6-5 272-pounds, yet another manufactured hype player from the Trojans. He goes out and runs an acceptable 4.82 40-yard dash.

So the question is why do the USC guys dominate so well in college week after week. Simple they don’t see even remotely good OTs on a week to week basis. They may see one to three good guys a year that measure up as talented OTs. But then they run into the Arizona State’s, the UCLA’s the Wassu’s the U-Dubs who don’t have even a remotely decent offensive tackle and they expose them. The Sun Devils and Bruins specifically have had O-Line problems for a number of years and last year was no exception. Plus people by default think that these two typically top of the Pac-10 schools would have a great OT. But they flat out don’t so the USC’s of the world expose that.

Next up is the stud from Texas Brian Orakpo who goes 6-3 263-pounds. Orakpo won’t be around long enough for the Bears to select and he immediately shows why by running a 4.63 40-yard dash. If scouts think he can play the OLB in a 3-4 defense they’re probably right when you can fly down the line in the 4.63 range.

BJ Raji is one of the most highly regarded DT maybe a nose tackle on the big board of just about everyone. Unfortunately if you make him take his shirt of you might be able to catch a wave off his stomach. Obviously at 6-1 337 he’s not going to be put together like a man of steel, but you would still prefer to see some sort of definition instead of a jiggle. He is built like a freaking tank though low squatty just thick throughout. I’ll give him props for throwing up 33 reps on the 225-bench.

This set of experts can’t get enough of busting Michael Johnson’s balls. They go in and show tape on the kid show how he got a pretty good push and defeated Eugene Monroe, but then gets taken out by a TE. Please let him fall in the draft just enough into the third round or so who knows. He could be valuable with running a 4.69 40-yard dash. Buyer beware, but Rod Marinelli just might be the guy to get something out of him.

Is it redundant with my reporting on Johnson? Yeah I should perhaps move on to others.

Okay so Robert Ayers from Tennessee 6-3 272-pounds goes out and runs a 4.80 in the 40-yard dash. Highly regarded and highly rated by Mike Mayock, Mayock says “I have to see where he was at before his senior year.” Ayers may be a potential prospect that slips to the Bears.

A Northen Illilnois boy Larry English a great edge rusher 6-3 255-pounds. Mike Mayock likes him a lot said he dominated the Minnesota Golden Gophers the first game of the season. Extremely talented edge rusher one of those tweener types that could play DE or LB in the NFL. A lot of the fast DEs in college are a wee bit undersized by NFL standards so there are a bunch of them that look like Lawrence Taylor, Devon Ware type 3-4 guys. English gets down the line in a pretty decent time of 4.77.

The intriguing thing is though these under-sized DE types seem to be the type of DEs that Lovie Smith favors even while running his 4-3 defense. Neither Alex Brown or Adewale Ogunleye are Bruce Smith or Reggie White type DEs.

In the end what the Bears need anyway is speed off the edge.

Everrette Brown from Florida State is another one that may just happen to fall to the Bears. If the perfect storm happens as the Chicago media mentions and all the OTs, WRs and Safties are off the board by the time the Bears select there is a plethora of pass rushers that would fall to them. Brown is 6-4 252-pounds and goes and runs a 4.63 40-yard dash. So while I say the Bears should not take a pass rushing DE on day one, if a great one happens to fall and keeps on falling and all the other high need prospects are off the board then take the needed value at 18 cut Ogunleye and save yourself some cap money in the process.

Connor Barwin from the Cincinnati Bear Cats goes 6-4 255-pounds and runs a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash time. Yet another tweener edge rusher type who if you put his hand in the dirt would be a good DE in the cover-2 defense where pass rushing is a must.

Barwin will be available later in the draft possibly outside the first round to where the Bears can snatch him up after they take an OT at 18 because guys like Orakpo, English, Brown will already be off the board by 18.

Why the Chicago Bears should NOT draft a DE on day one

February 22, 2009

A lack of a pass rush by the defensive line in 2008 arguably contributed to three to four losses on the season for the Chicago Bears.  Starting DEs Alex Brown and Adawale Ogunleye failed to muster much pressure throughout the seaosn.  They were consistently shut down. Even Mark Anderson who looked like a future pass rushing demon as a rookie couldn’t get a rush going to help the team.

I myself am solidly of the opinion that the Bears DO in fact need to upgrade their pass rush.  I was one livid person to be around on 3rd and longs this year.  No one could be in the room with me while watching the games because I couldn’t help but try to scream motivational garbage at the TV.  Somehow I  thought and will still think that these players can hear me through the TV.  It hasn’t stopped me since about the time I hit puberty and it won’t stop until the day I die, although if I go to heaven it likely won’t end there because let’s face it, heaven is on the Bears 50-yard line about 12 rows up.  That’s where I plan to watch games from anyway once I’m dead.

So then it begs the question WHY in the hell am I writing a blog to try to convince myself and others that the Bears shouldn’t draft a DE on day one of the NFL draft?  Well after my temper begins to cool down with the weather (let’s face it after January and most of February in Chicago even the most hot under the collar Bears fans chill out) I am able to think more clearly.  What have I thought about?  Just exactly how good O-Gun and Brown were against the run.  These two DEs were some of the best in the league in run defense.  No TEs could block them one on one, and Brown made plays in run support that won the Bears two maybe three games.

Which brings me to my point, draft a replacement for Mark Anderson the so-called pass rushing specialist.  It can be a guy in the fourth round or later, someone who  himself excels at rushing the passer and not much else.  Why take this type of risk at such a position of need?  Simple competition will motivate Anderson and whoever wins the battle in mini-camp and the pre-season the loser gets cut.  It is possible to find late round pass rushing talent at DE on a yearly basis.  Alex Brown was a fourth rounder and has been way more valuable to this franchise than his draft slot.

So then where can the Bears  find a player who could use a bit of extra motivation to earn some money and some playing time, but has all the natural ability to develop into a beast?  Georgia Tech’s Michael Johnson may be just the guy.  Every scout up to this point has questioned Johnson’s heart, his motor, his effort, his desire and his mental aptitude.  What they won’t question is his 6-7 260-pound frame, his athleticism, his speed, quickness and skills.  This kid is the perfect gamble for the Bears to risk on who might fall into the later rounds of the draft.

Why would I say this?  Because there is a new sherrif in town on the staff who happens to be the D-Line coach.  This guy happens to be Rod Marinelli who is known for his attitude, his strut and his ability to motivate eskimos into thinking they live in the tropics.  I have seen Marinelli in action first hand throughout his career.  Marinelli was the D-Line coach at Arizona State when I first ran across him.  He was the first coach at ASU who evoked images of legendary motivator Frank Kush.  Marinelli is a fire breathing tough guy who spits bullets and pisses on your scrapes and scabs.

There will be a tangible difference in this defensive line as a whole with Marinelli in charge.  Is he a miracle worker?  No, but he won’t need to be with the right mix of players.  The Bears still do have a strong mix of players on the D-Line.  The same can’t be said for other positions.

Brad Biggs of the Sun Times and I think alike:

Brad Biggs’ Blog