Bears looking for boost up front on defense
It's no secret the Chicago Bears failed to create enough havoc up front last season even with Julius Peppers. Defensive end Israel Idonije really didn't need the reminder.
He understands that's one area that needs to improve.
It sure would help if the Bears are going to deliver on the high expectations they're bringing into this season. With the trade for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and the depth they added throughout the roster, they believe they're poised to contend in the NFC and make a big playoff run after being wrecked by injuries last season on the way to an 8-8 finish.
They still have some question marks, though, and their ability to get to the quarterback is a big one despite the presence of Peppers. The Bears simply failed to take advantage even though the perennial Pro Bowl defensive end was constantly double-teamed.
''I don't know about that,'' Idonije said. ''I know that when I have opportunities, one-on-ones, I have to get to the quarterback.''
That's something the Bears struggled to do last season.
They tied for 19th in the league with 33 sacks even though Peppers had 11, and were 28th against the pass in part because they weren't getting enough pressure on a consistent basis.
They failed to record sacks against Carolina and San Diego, and they had just one in six other games, performances that hardly conjured visions of the old Monsters of the Midway.
Idonije saw his total slip from a career-high eight in 2010 to five, even though opponents were focusing on the other defensive end and often running plays away from Peppers.
''I know that he's one of the best to ever do it,'' Idonije said. ''So teams give him attention and when there's situations where you have a one-on-one on our defense, you have to be able to execute.''
Idonije said the opportunities were there for him last season. He just didn't finish the plays.
He said he was banged up a bit, although he did start all 16 games, but is now healed.
He also has some competition after the Bears drafted defensive end Shea McClellin in the first round out of Boise State, hoping he could help boost their pass rush.
''Shea's going to have to earn everything he does on the field,'' general manager Phil Emery said. ''That's his place. Could he be a starter? Possibly. He'd have to beat Izzy out. Could that be as a role player? Possibly, but he'd have to earn that.''
For now, he seems to be impressing the Bears. He's shown some burst in training camp as he tries to adjust to the pro game.
''I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help out this (defense),'' McClellin said. ''I'm not caring about depth charts. Wherever I am at the end of the day, I just want to help the team out.''
So far, Idonije likes what he sees. He praised McClellin's work ethic and said he's doing whatever he can to help the rookie even though he could, potentially, take his job at some point.
And Idonije insisted that doesn't make for an awkward situation.
''At the end of the day, everyone that joins us, they're a part of our team and me being a part of the team, my goal is to win on Sundays and to be successful every time we as a team step on the field,'' Idonije said. ''Every teammate we have is a part of that. He's a part of that.''
Idonije, meanwhile, hopes to rebound from a difficult season. If he does, that could be a big boost for the Bears and a relief for Peppers.
''I left a lot of plays on the field last year, just literally just a step off,'' Idonije said. ''Being able to capitalize on those plays, that's a game changer. That's really for me the next step. I know the defense. I know how to read an offense. Now it's just when I have the opportunity to make those plays, I've got to finish them.''
Notes: Hester was back practicing Sunday after sitting out the previous night because of an ankle injury. ... Peppers was basically a spectator on Sunday. ''He's out there. We're not going to beat him up,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ''We pretty much know what he can do. They'll monitor his reps. He doesn't know what they're going to be from time to time.''