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updated: 8/21/2011 7:56 PM

Okoye, Gholtston looking to fit in on Bears' D-line

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  • Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye sacks Bills quarterback Tyler Thigpen in the preseason opener.

      Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye sacks Bills quarterback Tyler Thigpen in the preseason opener.
    Associated Press

 
 

Among his "rush men" -- as Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to refer to his linemen -- are former top 10 draft picks Amobi Okoye and Vernon Gholston.

Both are looking for a fresh start.

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Okoye was deemed obsolete when Wade Phillips was hired as the Houston Texans' defensive coordinator and brought with him the 3-4 scheme that doesn't require a traditional 3-technique tackle like the former 10th overall pick.

Okoye's first four seasons were solid but not much more than that.

Gholston, taken sixth overall by the New York Jets, never took off, failing as a 3-4 linebacker.

The Bears see him strictly as a pass-rushing defensive end in their 4-3 alignment.

Marinelli welcomes the challenge of getting out of Okoye and Gholston what their previous coaches did not.

Both are expected to see extensive playing time Monday night against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium in the Bears' second preseason game.

"I've had that throughout my career," Marinelli said. "I enjoy it all. A top-flight guy comes in, that's great. A guy (who) maybe didn't do everything he wanted to at the last stop, but he has a chance to come here hungry, I love that.

"And the young player, it's all the same. It's just guys bringing an attitude, bringing some work ethic in and understanding what we want and competing."

Both veteran players have flashed the ability to contribute in the D-line rotation, and as of late so has undrafted rookie Mario Addison.

Okoye is the best bet to earn significant playing time this season.

"You can see the movement, especially the feet," Marinelli said of the 6-foot-2, 292-pound Okoye, who was just 19 when he was drafted.

"He's got acceleration. Now it's just about the day-to-day grind. That's what this whole thing's about, the toughness of mind to play this system.

"I think he's coming along well. The routine is a grind, but he's got the stuff."

Gholston has come on in recent practices but remains a longshot to crack a deep and talented group.

"He's progressing," Marinelli said. "You just stay positive with him, keep working with him, believing in him, and it'll come."

Gholston and Addison are getting longer looks than they would have otherwise, because 2010 fourth-round draft pick Corey Wootton suffered torn cartilage in the preseason opener.

Wootton had arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday that will keep the No. 3 defensive end out 3-4 weeks.

"No. 78 (Addison) is getting a little look," Marinelli said. "I like his movement. Vernon's taking some more reps, too."

Addison is a product of Troy University, which has developed some of the NFL's best pass rushers, including the Giants' Osi Umenyiora and the Dallas Cowboys' Demarcus Ware.

"That's one thing about Troy, we produce great defensive ends," said the 6-3, 252-pound Addison. "The coaches work with us day after day, just to make us rush men. They prepared us well."

Addison would prefer that his big chance didn't come as the result of an injury to a teammate, but he hopes to make the best of it.

"I hate to see good players like (Wootton) go down like that," Addison said. "But I knew when he went down, coach was looking for somebody to step up.

"I said, 'Let's get out and show them what I'm about,' because I know coach will give me more reps."

Marinelli was enthused throughout camp by the talent, depth and competition on the defensive line, which could see seven players contributing on Sundays when the regular season starts.

"One thing I really like is the competition," Marinelli said. "It's day to day. It's a bunch of good talented men in there. They're breathing on each other's necks."

Monday night, Marinelli will be looking for them to start breathing down the necks of the Giants' quarterbacks.

•Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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