We recently had the opportunity to discuss the prospects that Oregon St.'s Stephen Paea is looking at in his new role with the Chicago Bears with Lester Wilfong, an editor with Windycitygridiron.com, the SB Nation website that covers the Bears about 26 hours per day, 8 days a week, 56 weeks a year.
Here's their post, with our answers to their questions.
Paea, Oregon St.'s season and career leader in turnovers forced, and last year's Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, was Chicago's second round pick in this year's NFL draft. Which will make Bears fans out of a lot of Beaver Nation. But what should Paea, and Beaver fans, expect, once the NFL labor dispute is resolved, and football resumes?
1. What do you realistically expect for playing time for Paea this year? We saw one of your writers mention working him in rotation with. Is Paea going to see starts, or will he mostly be a situation player initially?
Honestly I think he could start at the 3 technique as a rookie. Henry Melton has shown promise, but nothing to say he can lock down a starting position, in fact he's never started a game in his Bears career. Matt Toeania started 10 games last year, but he doesn't seem to be a lock either. This Bears coaching regime has shown a willingness to start rookies if they feel they are the best option. I think Melton may be #1 on the depth chart right now, but camp may dictate otherwise.
2. While quite strong, Paea isn't close to being the tallest or heaviest defensive lineman in the NFL. What should we expect to see the Bears do schematically to compliment him in rushing situations?
The Bears like their defensive linemen smaller and quicker than most teams. They run a 1 gap penetrating defense, and will ask Paea to get off the ball quickly and control his gap. If he reads pass he'll need to get after the QB.
3. Could you update Oregon St. and Pac-12 fans who may not follow the Bears in great detail about defensive line coach Mike Phair, and how he will develop the line?
Since this will be his 1st season coaching in Chicago I don't know much about him other than what I read in his bio. But I do know that he worked in Tampa Bay as a scout when D-Line guru coached there, so if Coach Marinelli liked him enough to bring him on board that has to say something.
4. How much doesRod Marinelli involve himself with the individual position groups, especially the line?
He has coached the D-Line for the majority of his coaching career that started in 1973 and he's known league wide as one of the best at doing that. Last year when he was promoted to defensive coordinator he still was out there getting dirty with the lineman. He's a teacher at heart and he loves coaching up the young men on technique and attitude.
5. The Bears are known for the attitude of their defense as much as any team in the league. How do you see Paea fitting in with the personality of the defense?
When I watch Paea on film I see a high motor player that plays until the whistle. The Bears expect that kind of hustle on every play, he'll fit right in. And considering how far he's come as a player with only 6 years playing football, that tells me he's a very coachable player and that's another great attribute he has. I'm excited to see him grow as a member of the Bears.
6. The Bears won their division last year, and as a result, have drawn a tough schedule, including the NFC South, as well as Philly and Seattle. 7 games against playoff teams. What has to happen to get Chicago back to the postseason? And how can Paea most help?
The Bears are no lock to make the playoffs again, but they should be in the running for, at the very least, a wildcard spot. Most of the Bears problems surround the offense and if the o-line can take a collective step in play the entire unit will benefit.
Defensively, finding that 3 technique defensive tackle that can get a push up the middle and collapse a pocket is so critical to the Bears Tampa 2 defense. Last year the Bears didn't have that, and they still had one of the better defenses in the NFL. If Stephen Paea can come in and provide a push from DT, or if his strength demands a double team (or hopefully both), the other Bears d-linemen will benefit.
Thanks to Lester for his insights! It will be fun and interesting to read Windycitygridiron as the season, and Stephen's career, unfolds.