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updated: 9/10/2012 9:13 PM

Bears' Melton looking to build on success

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  • Bears defensive end Henry Melton sacks Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in Sunday's season-opening victory.

      Bears defensive end Henry Melton sacks Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in Sunday's season-opening victory.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

With a visit to Green Bay just two days away, the Bears don't get much time to savor their season-opening victory over the Indianapolis.

But the quick turnaround gives them the opportunity to build on their Sunday successes.

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One of the most pleasant developments vs. the Colts was the 2-sack performance of defensive tackle Henry Melton. But for now, enthusiasm over Melton must be tempered.

This is the second straight season he has started with 2 sacks. He also had a pair in the opener against Atlanta last season but followed it up with just 1 more in the next seven games. He finished with 7 for the season, second best on the team.

"I like opening day," Melton said with a big smile. "The thing I'm going to try to work on this year is to keep going back to back instead of one amazing game and then kind of falling off and then (having) another good game and then falling off.

"I'm going to try to work on my consistency."

He should get plenty of opportunities against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had 47 dropbacks Sunday in Green Bay's 30-22 loss to the 49ers.

The Packers threw 552 passes last season and were sacked 41 times, ranking 22nd in sack percentage allowed.

Melton sacked Rodgers once in the first meeting against the Packers last season, a 27-17 Bears loss at Soldier Field. But then he went five games without a sack, an indication of his up-and-down campaign.

"That's fair," he said of the inconsistency charge. "You get different looks every game, and every team is different. Some teams are passing the ball the whole time, so you have an opportunity to make plays, and then sometimes you're fighting through double-teams the whole game.

"It's totally different, but there are really no excuses. If he's dropping back, you've got to get back there."

Both of Melton's sacks Sunday came in the fourth quarter after the Bears had built a 41-21 lead, forcing rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to chuck it.

"It was really fun," Melton said. "Jay (Cutler) came off after we got a nice lead and said, 'It's time for y'all to eat.' I was like, 'This is what I dream of.' We know that they're not going to run the ball. We just get to tee off and get after the quarterback."

Despite the inconsistencies of 2011, it was a breakout season for Melton, who has been transformed as a player.

He spent his rookie season (2009) on injured reserve and played a backup role in 2010, when he was moved to tackle and asked to bulk up to 295 pounds after being drafted as a 265-pound defensive end.

The move has the potential to pay huge dividends for the Bears, given the elite athleticism that Melton brings to the interior of the line.

He still flashes the movement skills of a running back, where he played more games (25) at Texas than he did on the D-line (24).

"I think he did enough good things last year," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We've been talking about Henry for a long time. Now, we're just judging him on this year.

"He played one regular-season game, and he played outstanding football. I just see him doing the same each week. No more than that.

"We're going to keep taking it to the practice field and getting him better. He's a coachable guy. He does everything you ask him to do. There's reason to think that just with maturity he'll make that step."

That means doing more than flashing pass-rush talent, and Melton showed that as well Sunday.

On back-to-back plays he chased down a scrambling Luck, limiting him to a 3-yard gain and, on the next snap, flattened running back Donald Brown for a 4-yard loss.

"A lot of people kind of just have me as a one-dimensional player, (thinking) that all I can really do is pass rush," he said. "I want to be more than that."

Melton will get his chance to prove he's all that and more on a national stage Thursday night in Green Bay.

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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