Will Sutton: Chicago Bears Roster Preview
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Bears 2015 season begins in almost exactly three months on September 13th, so to get our readers primed for the season BGO will be previewing every player on the roster before the season starts. Next up on the list is 2nd year defensive lineman Will Sutton.
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The Bears used a 3rd round pick on Sutton in the 2013 draft. Sutton was one of the most dominant defensive tackles in college football in 2012 with 13 sacks, a PAC12 Defensive Player of the Year award, and a College Football All-American team nomination. His 2013 season was a bit of a disappointment after Sutton gained around 15 pounds to improve his run stopping ability. Sutton still managed to earn a Pac12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year award, but his sack total dropped from 13 to 4.
When the Bears selected Sutton he was projected to compete for the 3-tech DT position in the Bears 4-3 scheme. With the Bears switching to a 3-4 hybrid scheme under new coordinator Vic Fangio, it’s unclear how Sutton will fit into the defensive line rotation. He is a prototype 3-tech, but has shown the ability to add or drop weight in the past, so it’s possible Sutton can become a better fit at either the nose tackle or the left defensive end position.
What to Expect from Will Sutton in 2015
On paper Sutton might be the worst fit for the Bears new 3-4 scheme of all the Bears returning D-lineman. He was fairly useless as a rookie with negative grades against the run (-3.7) and as a pass rusher (-7.6) despite getting more playing time then expected (465 snaps). Sutton started 5 games and didn’t record a sack but did have 22 tackles and two pass deflections while appearing in 15 games. Despite his lackluster rookie season, there is hope for Sutton still.
In his junior year at Arizona St, Sutton played at around 280 pounds and was an explosive pass rusher (13 sacks). His burst off the ball and solid hand work could make Sutton a decent fit for the LE position in Fangio’s scheme, if he can regain his junior year athleticism. With the Niners Fangio often used his best interior pass rusher at LE and it’s probably the closest position to the 3-tech DT Sutton played in college.
Unfortunately, someone convinced Sutton that he needed to gain weight to be effective at the next level, so he played his senior year at over 300 pounds and lost the athleticism to get to the QB. Sutton was still effective his senior year (Pac-12 Co-Defensive Player), but as a run stopper instead of a pass rusher. At 300-ish pounds Sutton isn’t explosive enough to generate a pass rush and isn’t strong enough to be a run-stuffer against NFL O-linemen. That leaves him without a natural position in Fangio’s 3-4 scheme and could put his roster spot in jeopardy.
It’s hard to imagine the 2014 version of Sutton playing significant snaps anywhere in the Bears 3-4 alignment, but Fangio runs a fair amount of 4-man fronts as well so Sutton could still see the field at his natural position occasionally. Whether that is enough value to keep Sutton on the roster is debatable.
His best chance to stick around would be to slim down and hopefully regain the burst he showed as a junior, which would give Sutton a shot to contribute at the LE position. Alternately, Sutton could continue to bulk up and try to play nose tackle, but I don’t know if he would ever be strong enough to handle double-teams. I think Sutton’s best chance to see the field would be as a slimmed down LE. After the loss of Ray McDonald, it’s also one of the Bears thinnest positions, which could give Sutton a quick path to playing time.
So far Sutton is showing the right attitude on the field and seems to understand the need to adapt his skill set. “You’ve just got to adjust,” Sutton said. “Whatever they bring in, you’ve got to be coachable. You better come in with an open mind and be ready to work.”
Next: Bears Roster Breakdown: Ego Ferguson