Bears' new toughness starts with defensive line
How tough is tough enough in the NFL?
There's no definitive answer, but Bears coach Marc Trestman said last year's team wasn't tough enough.
"We weren't the tough team we wanted to be for a lot of different reasons," he said. "We want to accentuate it this year."
The plan to toughen up last year's 8-8 team already has begun.
"We're a team that wants to play -- even offensively -- with a defensive mentality," Trestman said. "There's a way to play football in Chicago, and that's to be tough and physical.
"We brought a lot of alumni in here, and the universal language hasn't just come from me. It has come from those people. We've got to practice that way every day to be that team we want to be.
"We're not there yet."
Run defense usually is an excellent indicator of toughness, and any team that finished last in that category, as the Bears did last season, is clearly not tough enough.
"We know that," Trestman said. "We're trying to get there because that's the way every team plays in the National Football League. The best defenses play tough and physical. There are a lot of different ways to win, but you seldom win a game (when) you don't win the line of scrimmage.
"There's a seldom a game you win where you can't at least somewhat run the ball effectively and stop the run. It all starts with the line of scrimmage. That has been a big point of emphasis."
Coordinator Mel Tucker said the defense will be spiced up by the addition of new but veteran linemen.
"It's a salty group," Tucker said. "We're putting a premium on toughness and being rugged and being stout and having tremendous anchor in our d-line and being able to control blockers. That violent shed and (getting) off blocks and making plays and pushing the pocket in the passing game.
"And then win those 1-on-1s. In order to do that, you have to be tough, and you have to be physical. It's the trenches. And that's what we're looking for, and that's what we have with those guys, and that's just the way it's got to be in the front.
"You can't play any other way. You've got to have tough guys in there who are willing to scrap and fight and toss guys around to win 1-on-1s."
Blending unrestricted free agents Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in with returnees Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins and draft picks Ego Ferguson (second round) and Will Sutton (third round) should give the Bears more talent and a lot more depth than they had upfront in 2103.
"We all know that in order to have a great defense, it starts with the defensive line," Tucker said. "So there's been a lot of focus there. Jared Allen has done a fantastic job so far. He's a real pro. When he practices, he practices at a high level. He's good in the classroom. He leads by example.
"Ratliff is very, very stout and rugged inside. He's hard to handle in there; he's got great experience in there.
"You add Willie Young, Paea, Lamarr to that mix, and the other young guys that we have, and we have great competition, a mixture of young players and veteran players."
Throw in a pinch of salt and some more toughness, and the Bears should have the recipe for the kind of defense they lacked last season.
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