Phil Emery has conceded that when given a choice, bigger is better on defense. He also has talked about building from the trenches back.
He did both Friday night in the second and third rounds of the NFL draft. The Bears went bigger in the middle of the line in the second round and then got an interior pass rusher when the picked Arizona State's Will Sutton in Round 3.
It continued the offseason makeover of the defense, which got a boost Thursday with the addition of Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with the 14th overall pick. The Bears haven't found a safety after four went in the first round and the biggest winner on the current roster could be veteran Chris Conte, who is expected to have to win his starting job back when he returns from shoulder surgery.
No one will compare this to the double down the Bears had a decade ago in 2004 when they selected tackles Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson with their first two picks in the draft. But if they get 75 percent of the production, it will be a boost to a line that needed an infusion of youth in the middle.
"We are very much looking for players who can be physical at the point of attack," Emery said. "Help us stop the run. Both of them were targeted players as we painted this plan over the last couple of weeks. They were the two players we had slotted for those two spots. You have to take them when they are available and you take the ones you feel good about."
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Ego Ferguson doesn't flash as an interior pass rusher like other tackles that were linked to the Bears in the pre-draft process such as Aaron Donald and Dominique Easley, both first-round picks, or Sutton. But he has bulk and said in a meeting with defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni on a pre-draft visit they talked about him being an ideal two-technique, a tackle who lines up directly over the guard, not over the outside shoulder like a three-technique.
"They brought me to the office and we were basically talking ball for a long time and he was asking me if I could play a two-technique," Ferguson said. "Can I do it? He said, 'That is what we're looking for,' and showed a lot of interest."
That Bears were looking for a run stopper and you can't criticize that after the defense ranked last in the NFL allowing 161.4 yards per game. Ferguson has some quickness as well as length and athleticism that attracted Emery to him. The Bears will have to bring out Ferguson's untapped potential as Emery made him the third tackle selected Friday after Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan.
"When you watched him on SEC tape, he controlled the front," Emery said. "People could not run the ball up inside. That was a big attraction."
During the pre-draft visit, the Bears surely wanted to talk to Ferguson about his suspension from the Outback Bowl vs. Iowa, his final game at LSU. He said LSU coaches suspended him for breaking a team rule.
"I was disappointed missing the game," Ferguson said. "My teammates showed me a lot of love that game. It hurt. I can't say it was the wrong punishment or not. I am not the coach. The decision was made."
Brick Haley, the LSU defensive line coach that served in the same role under Lovie Smith in 2007-08, compared Ferguson to Johnson.
"Ego is a mobile guy who can stop the run and give them some pocket push in the middle," Haley said. "He is a coach's kind of player. He's going to do the things you ask him to. He is going to be disciplined and he has matured and grown up as a young man. The Bears are going to be very pleased.
"He's not there yet. He is not Tank Johnson but he reminds me of Tank when he was coming out."
Sutton, the two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year, is more of a pure three-technique and will have the chance to help fill the void created by the loss of Henry Melton. He was disappointed not to come off the board in the second round but Sutton had a poor senior season when he ballooned to 320 pounds from the 285 he weighed as a junior when he had 13 sacks for the Sun Devils. Sutton said he was told he needed to get bigger for the NFL but the added bulk slowed him considerably and he had only four sacks last season.
Now, Sutton says he is at 290 and said that is where the Bears want him to be.
"I have a constant motor and am going to come to work every day," Sutton said.
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