Vic Fangio is in town and that could mean big changes are on the way for the Chicago Bears defense, from top to bottom. The most notable perhaps will be a shift from their long-time 4-3 alignment to that of a 3-4 in which they put out four linebackers instead of three.
That kind of transformation will require a significant series of personnel moves. Here are some names on the roster who can make it, some who can’t and a series of notable free agents the team should target.
Current Starters Who Can Covert
Before joining the Bears, Ryan Mundy was with two other teams. The first was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who perfected the 3-4 defense under Dick LeBeau. He is familiar with it and knows how it works.
The thing about 3-4 corners is they’re required to play a lot of man coverage which means they need size and athleticism. Fortunately the Bears scooped up Kyle Fuller last year in the draft. At 6’0″ he has good enough size and tested well as an athlete.
Anybody with the athleticism of Christian Jones can fit in any defense but it goes beyond that. At Florida State he was asked to rush the passer a lot, something he proved quite good at. Throw in his length and it should be a natural transition.
His range and knack for stopping the run give Jon Bostic a number of qualities that 3-4 defensive coordinators look for at inside linebacker. It isn’t a big stretch for Fangio to do the same.
How ironic would it be that only after the GM and head coach who drafted him were fired would Shea McClellin finally realize his potential? Indeed experts said from the beginning that he was a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 given his speed and athleticism. If ever there was a chance for him to save his job, this move is it.
Lots of length and deceptive burst helped Willie Young emerge as the best pass rusher for the Bears in 2014. He doesn’t quite have the preferred athleticism for an outside linebacker, but Vic Fangio should know how to work around that.
The good news is Jeremiah Ratliff is experienced in a 3-4. Prior to joining the Bears, he was the nose tackle for the Dallas Cowboys when they ran that defense under Wade Phillips. In that span he went to four Pro Bowls.