|The Bears' pass rush and overall defensive line play is significantly improved from last year, with rotation being a big key to keep players fresh. (AP)|
Although two games hardly constitutes a season, indications are the Bears' offseason plan to improve their pass rush has worked in borderline spectacular fashion.
The plan started with drafting Shea McClellin and adding help at defensive tackle, then involved using more rotation and keeping players fresh. The goal was improving the 29th ranking in sacks per pass play last season that seemed to leave their secondary vulnerable to big passes.
With eight sacks, the Bears are tied for second in the league. More importantly, they are fourth in sacks per pass play. And they've done it while keeping their main pass rushers fresh. DT Henry Melton is tied for second in the league with three sacks, DE Julius Peppers has two and DEs McClellin and Corey Wootton have 1 1/2 each.
Both DEs Peppers and Israel Idonije went over 80 percent participation in each of the last two seasons. So far, Idonije was in for 43 percent of plays and Peppers 72 percent against the Packers, and Peppers 77 percent and Idonije 65 percent against the Colts. The reason is Wootton played 47 percent against the Packers and 33 percent against the Colts and McClellin 46 percent and 44 percent. There is legitimate help for the two starters.
"You know it’s been nice, just the rotation," Wootton said. "It’s giving people a different look. One play it’s Izzy, one play it’s myself, one play it’s Shea, one play it’s Pep.
"So it gives everybody a different look, and then inside they’re doing a good of rotating (at tackle) as well, so it’s different looks all across the board."
The tackles have rotated as well, with Melton giving way to Amobi Okoye. Melton thinks he'll be able to sustain his fast early start better than last year, when he also got out fast.
"You know, you get torn down physically," Melton said.
The defensive end rotation wouldn't be possible without Wootton's improvement. He has been plagued in the past by an assortment of injuries, but is healthy this year.
"I show them everything I can out there and so far I’ve been able to do that and get a little more playing time," he said. "That’s what my goal was all off-season, just to get myself healthy and show them what I can do."
Melton's role is the key in the one-gap scheme the Bears use.
"Especially in our defense, the under tackle that’s what coach always strives for -- the under tackle drives the defense," Wootton said. "And so far he’s (Melton) really been doing that."
Melton was essentially a rookie at the spot last year.
"It's just having another year underneath my belt, just knowing really what's going to go on the rest of the year, how they're going to play me and how we're going to play other teams," he said.
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.