Emery not worried about McClellin, Peppers
By Dan Wiederer, Tribune reporter
8:31 a.m. CDT, October 24, 2013
Bears general manager Phil Emery offered a state-of-the-team address earlier this week at Halas Hall but steered away from sharp criticism of a defensive line that has been depleted by injury and largely ineffective generating any sort of significant pass rush this season.
Through seven games, the Bears have only nine sacks (30thin the NFL). Five of those quarterback takedowns have come from linebackers. And another was delivered by defensive tackle Nate Collins in Week 5 against the Saints not long before he suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
No wonder then that opposing quarterbacks have completed 65.3 percent of their passes against the Bears this season for 1,784 yards with 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 94.0 rating.
Still, when asked directly about the struggles of ends Shea McClellin and Julius Peppers, Emery searched for silver linings.
“I’ve seen improvement in Shea, particularly in his strength against the run,” he said. “The primary thing to remember about our defense, as opposed to how some others are structured, is we’re a one-gap fit defense. Generally our ends are C-gap players. In our defense, the most important thing is gap discipline and doing your job first. I’ve seen drastic differences between him from a year ago in being able to maintain that leverage on that gap, to be able to drop his hips, extend his arms and hold his ground so that the ball is turned into another gap. So in terms of playing team defense, Shea is doing a great job at that.
“Julius, in his words and my words, we want him to continue to improve where he’s at as a player. I’ve seen some great individual plays and I think he wants to improve his consistency and so do the rest of us.”
Asked why Peppers hasn’t had anywhere near the impact this season that has come to be expected from him, Emery pointed to the Bears’ constantly reshuffling defense as a contributing factor for the slump.
“I think what you’re seeing is a different combination of players that has been variable from week to week,” he said. “It’s about us as a group learning to play together and be assignment specific. That feel, it’s different. If you have one different person in a group of 11, it’s going to affect how everybody fits. I think that’s what you’re seeing, not so much Julius Peppers or Shea, it’s just how we all fit together and work together.”