Chicago Bears All-22: Rookie DT’s

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Chicago Bears DTs

The Chicago Bears drafted rookie defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton to help add youth to an aging defensive line. Ferguson is more of a running game clogger and Sutton a pass rush specialist. Against the New York Jets this past Monday, Sutton earned extended snaps with the injury to Jeremiah Ratliff and showed a lot of promise. In limited snaps, Ferguson showed his ability to use size and above average hand work to get to the quarterback.

The images below come from NFL Game Rewind’s ‘All-22,’ which offers fans the ability to see what the coaches see for a nominal fee. Sutton is number 93 and Ferguson is number 95.

For majority of the game, the Chicago Bears used their Nickel package: five defensive backs, two linebackers, and four down linemen. This set-up is what probably led to Will Sutton getting more time than Ego Ferguson. Despite being undersized, Sutton has great speed and good footwork that enables him to elude offensive linemen, but can get him stuck if he loses leverage.

Let’s look at two plays.

Chicago Bears Rookie DTs

Courtesy: NFL

This still is from the Ego Ferguson sack in the first quarter. You can see Sutton was able to get off his block just in time for a gap to open among the offensive line of the Jets. Sutton used that lane to force Jets QB Geno Smith to his left and into Ferguson. The play took roughly four seconds to develop. That almost always benefits the offense, but coverage downfield aided the defensive line. Coverage sacks are great, but give credit to the rookie defensive tackles for their pursuit.

Chicago Bears DT Will Sutton

Courtesy: NFL

In the second half, the New York Jets used two linemen to slow down Sutton a handful of times. On this specific play at 11:14 in the 4th quarter, Will Sutton got enough separation from the double-team to get a hand up on Smith’s pass attempt. While it did not alter the flight of the football, it did show Sutton’s awareness of the situation. I personally believe that the ability to do so is an instinct and not necessarily taught. It is plays like this one that impress your coaches and earn you more playing time.

There were numerous times/plays where one or both of Ferguson and Sutton looked like rookies. Sutton’s run coverage is still an issue. Ferguson did not sub in on those plays because he is a 3-technique. The Bears already start Stephen Paea at that DT spot. Sutton will have to continue to find a way to shed blockers on running plays. He is stood up too easily and stops his feet much sooner than he would on a passing play to get a hand up.

The Bears have to face a solid runner in Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers. Will Sutton will get the start again for the concussed Ratliff with Ferguson subbing in here and there for Paea. The Packers offensive line has its own issues but manages to give QB Aaron Rodgers enough time to throw or scramble. Geno Smith is not Aaron Rodgers, so it will be even more important for the rookies in the middle to keep Rodgers from leaving the pocket to find a better angle or take off. Another solid game will go a long way into the rebuilding of the Chicago Bears defense.

Jeff is a production assistant @120Sports and contributor to hockey, football, and baseball for The Sports Bank. Follow him on Twitter @skcih_ffej.

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