Major Wright smiled thinking about what a difference a year makes.
The strong safety and deep-coverage partner Chris Conte both were sent on blitzes during last Mondays win over the Detroit Lions. Each was credited with a quarterback hurry by Pro Football Focus for their efforts.
This time a year ago he and Conte were starting their first game together, mostly because Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather had effectively played their ways out of the lineup, not particularly because of how well Conte and Wright were doing.
The blitz calls, along with new rotations along the defense line, serve as hood ornaments for a key element growing inside the dominating Bears defense this season.
Coaches know that both of us know what were doing, and theres no doubt in our minds that our coaches trust in us, Wright said. For them to call a blitz for me or Chris, they know well both be there, right time, right place.
He paused, then laughed. Last year, they probably werent always sure.
They werent, and not necessarily of every other member of the defense the way they are in 2012. But this is not the 2011 defense.
The more you put a player in positions and you see him making plays, said coach Lovie Smith, youll continue to add more things for them.
Against the Lions, the Bears were using a dizzying blizzard of rotations on the front four. Despite a game in which the Bears were never able to shake comfortably free of their division rivals, front-four packages that only occasionally was limited of the starting four of Israel Idonije-Henry Melton-Stephen Paea-Julius Peppers.
It was not the first time. Against the Dallas Cowboys, no lineman played more than 43 snaps (Melton, Paea) or fewer than 36 (Corey Wootton).
Peppers, the Bears best defensive lineman, played 87.6 percent of opponents snaps last season. This year he has been on the field for just 73.6 percent, according to Pro Football Focus.
Coach really, really trusts the guys, Wootton said. In the past I dont know that theyve felt they could trust us as much but weve earned their trust. So now we can give them different looks.
The McClellin Model
Different, indeed. Rookie Shea McClellin was used in some pass coverages as well as at his usual end spot and occasionally dropping in at defensive tackle. He has earned coaches respect and, as important, that of the on-field coach of the defense.
He doesnt screw up, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. As a rookie you dont want guys screwing up and he hasnt done that. I think hes very versatile.
We have different packages with him in there than weve had in the past. We do some third-down blitzes, some other stuff that we havent done in the past.
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