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Bears Tue Oct 07 2014

Where in the World is Willie Young?

Chicago BearsThirty-seven plays. Of the 66 times the Bears defense lined up against Cam Newton, Willie Young was on the field for just 37 of them, or 56 percent of the time. Pro Football Focus has him rated as third worst Bears defender when it comes to pass rushing, but he has five sacks, while the rest of the team combines for six more. He forced a fumble on Sunday and blocked a field goal against the Packers, yet he ranks ninth on the defense in snaps played.

Few can argue against the fact that he's been one of the best free agency bargains in the NFL. At three years and $9 million, Young's production is far exceeding his contract through the first five games. Though PFF has him graded quite low in his pass rushing, he leads the Bears when it comes to his run defense. Five sacks and the best run stopping defensive linemen sounds exactly like a stat line the team was hoping to get out of Lamarr Houston (five years, $35 million) or Jared Allen (four years, $32 million).

Young played all but five snaps against the Packers a week ago, but that can be explained by the absence of Allen due to a bout of pneumonia. He lost 18 pounds in a week's time, and wasn't a sure thing to be back playing against the Panthers, yet he was out there for 89 percent of the defensive snaps. He had only gained back 10 of the pounds he lost, and was credited with one hurry and a batted pass.

Questions were asked after Allen was signed about how the Bears were going to get playing time for all of their new linemen. The two answers we kept hearing were Allen would be playing far less than the 90-plus percent he was used to during his time in Minnesota in hopes of keeping him fresher, and that Houston would kick inside to play the three technique defensive tackle spot on pass rushing downs.

In the four games Allen has played, he's been on the field nearly 91 percent of the time. The only time he's made a true impact on the pass rush is in the second half against New York, where he did a fine job beating former Pro Bowler D'Brickashaw Ferguson with an array of moves that reminded you of the terror everyone knew in Minnesota. Other than that half, he was stymied by another former Pro Bowler in Joe Staley, relative unknown in Cordy Glenn, and PFF's worst offensive tackle in the NFL before last week in Carolina's Byron Bell. Sure, you can chalk up the bad game to Allen not being fully healthy, but then he shouldn't be playing almost every snap when a fully capable and productive replacement is standing on sidelines.

Houston has taken a beating from fans because he hasn't recorded a sack or massive play during the first five games, but PFF does rank him as the Bears' second-best pass rusher behind Stephen Paea. He leads the team in QB hits (six) and hurries (11), but hasn't been able to finish with any game-altering plays, leading to the "Twitter terrorists" coming out in force. There's still plenty of season left for him to make loud plays, but everyone is understandably frustrated after a 2-3 start that saw the Bears hold at least a second quarter lead in each defeat.

Mel Tucker is playing a lot of zone coverage and expecting the linemen Phil Emery inked to a lot of paper to win their one-on-one matchups. The only guy who seems to be doing it on a consistent basis is Young, but he's only played 59 percent of the defensive snaps. It's not that he lacks the skill as a run defender, so the only reason up to this point is because he makes less money than the other guys. Young needs to be playing far more often if Tucker plans on sticking to the scheme and only rushing four guys most of the time. He's the only one making big plays.

 
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