Amobi Okoye left a pretty big hole when he left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency this off-season. Okoye had over 30 QB pressures on the season and four sacks in a rotational role behind Henry Melton. Okoye's departure means there is no true three technique DT behind Melton, or is there?
Israel Idonije was one of the top pass rushing defensive tackles in the NFL a mere two seasons ago. From ProFootballFocus:
Idonije has been a quiet performer all year and in fact last week was his first red negative (-2.8) performance of the year. He has 23 stops on the season and 9 sacks and been a danger in opponents backfields all season. A good yardstick for any pass-rushing 4-3 tackle is the highly touted Ndamukong Suh.
|Name||Overall PFF Grade||QB Sacks||QB Hits||QB Pressures|
Idonjie has but up these number on 181 less snaps, so if you would be willing to play Suh, you should be willing to play Idonjie!
According to those PFF statistics Israel Idonije was a more productive interior DT than the All Pro Suh. These stats point directly to Idonije rushing from the inside three technique in passing situations while also giving Melton a breather on occasion.
Helping to bolster the chances that Izzy will slide inside a lot more in 2012 than he did in 2011 is the abundance of DEs on the roster. The Bears drafted DE Shea McClellin to be that outside third down pass rushing specialist in place of Idonije. In addition McClellin the Bears also have Chauncey Davis and Corey Wootton both battling for a roster spot in 2012.
Wootton is a third year player and it would seem foolish for the Bears to so easily cast aside a once promising talent. In Davis the Bears have a scrappy run stopping veteran DE who could be as good as a player as Wootton. The Bears carried four DEs on the roster in 2011 but why would they carry five? Idonije would be the reason to carry five as he's proven he can play the DT spot in addition to his DE duties.
Additionally, given the mishmash of garbage that essentially exists behind Melton for the backup three technique spot, Idonije is easily the best backup three-technique on the roster currently. Common sense and history would seem to dictate that even though the Bears may be working Idonije at DE opposite Peppers you can't rule out Idonije as a DT. He's played it before and defensive coordinator/D-Line extraordinaire coach Rod Marinelli has always like putting his best "rush men" on the field at any one time. Sliding DEs in to the DT position has been common place before and likely could be again.
So while Idonije may not offer the youth and overall talent of the lost Amobi Okoye, he clearly offers an option that may not cause a major drop off in production during a season in which the Bears are hoping their defense and offense come together for a championship run.