October 13, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) breaks through the defense of UCLA Bruins center Jake Brendel (54) during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Scouting Combine Preview - Defensive Tackles


Defensive Tackles

It starts up front and in the trenches.  Look no further than a guy like Haloti Ngata of the world champion Baltimore Ravens to see the difference that an impact defensive tackle can make on a team.  There are a lot of different ways that teams can approach the position, whether they play a 3-4 or 4-3 and different schemes within those base defenses.  It’s one of the most widely varied positions with someone out there for everyone. 

What to Watch

Don’t bother watching 40 times; you want to see how strong these guys are.  You want a guy who can either command a double team or split a double team and get pressure up the field.

Top Prospects

  1. Star Lotulelei, Utah
  2. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
  3. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
  4. Jonathan Jenkins, Georgia
  5. Sharrif Floyd, Florida

 

Analysis

If a team is running a 3-4 defense, they’re looking for a Coke machine to plug into the middle of that defense to draw the attention of the center and at least one guard.  If you’re running a 4-3, you have options depending on whether you’re playing a one-gap or two-gap system.  A one-gap system could use the 3-technique tackle to penetrate upfield to rush the passer.  A two-gap 4-3 defense would use bigger tackles like the Bears used to when they had Ted Washington and Keith Traylor clogging up the defensive interior.

The Bears

The big question for the Bears to address is Henry Melton, who’s coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance.  If they keep him, they’ll likely use up a big chunk of their limited salary cap, so there’s a strong chance that Melton could depart via Free Agency.  Other than Melton, the Bears only have former second rounder Stephen Paea under contract who accrued any significant playing time.  Nate Collins is a restricted free agent and Cheta Ozougwu and seldom used Matt Toeaina under contract through 2013.

I fully expect the Bears to add depth to the defensive line both in the draft and free agency.  If Melton departs via free agency, it certainly bumps up the priority, but even if they can find a way to keep Hank, they need some warm bodies to roll into the rotation.

If Lovie Smith were still around, we’d know what the prototypes for the position the Bears would be seeking.  Since Mel Tucker is taking charge, we don’t know how he plans to run the 4-3.  It’s likely that he’ll keep some elements of Lovie Smith’s Bear-2 or Cover-2, but with some vacancies, it could afford Tucker the opportunity to re-shape the position in an way he sees fit to match the scheme he’d like to run.

What do you think?  Is there a player at the top of the defensive tackle that would merit consideration if he falls to the Bears?  Would you fill that need over the needs at offensive line, tight end and linebacker?

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