When Mel Tucker accepted the position of defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, he took it knowing full well he'd be inheriting an engrained system. For nine years in the Windy City, Lovie Smith molded his version of the Tampa 2.
The veterans knew the system and terminology inside and out, and their skill sets were solid fits for the classic Cover 2. As a result, Tucker agreed to keep the terminology and basic packages Smith had left behind.
The result was a defense that often looked confused and disorganized. Never was this more obvious than during the season-ending touchdown by Packers receiver Randall Cobb, one in which on-field miscommunication cost the Bears a shot at the playoffs.
In 2013, the Bears finished last in league against the run and had the fewest sacks. Obviously, Tucker and Lovie's Cover 2 aren't a compatible duo.
Tucker now has the freedom to make changes as he sees fit and it appears this year's defense could be very different from its predecessor.
"We have our package in from a coaching staff standpoint," Tucker said following the first practice of rookie minicamp. "There are some significant changes in terms of the techniques that we're going to play, how we're going to fit the run, some of our alignments. We'll have some alternative fronts that we'll play.
"I'm not sure how much of a difference you'll see during the OTAs and things like that because we're really going to work to the lay the foundation on our base principles and techniques, which will allow us to do pretty much anything we want to do down the road. There are some changes."
Tucker has received in influx of talent this offseason and has toys aplenty with which to play. Those players, he said, will dictate the look of his packages this season.
"Some of the stuff that we have is going to be based upon the personnel. A lot of the packages that you have, you want to build them around the guys that you have and what they do well. We have it all on paper and we just have to wait and see which ones we're going to use based on what we see guys do on the field."
The personnel shift on defense, which includes a nearly brand new defensive line, was part of the club's plan following last year's debacle.
"I just told [Trestman] that I thought there were some things that we need to add to what we're doing," said Tucker. "Some things that I'm familiar with I think can help us and some if it is going to be based upon the players that we get. So I think we have those players in place now and we can do those things."
What those changes are remain to be seen. Tucker has experience coaching a 3-4 defense and could install more of those principles, particularly in his blitz packages. First-round cornerback Kyle Fuller is a versatile, aggressive player who excelled as a blitzer for Virginia Tech. His skill set may allow Tucker to realize his creative potential.
"He's a very intelligent player," Tucker said. "He's got good size. He's got good speed. He's a willing and aggressive tackler and a high-percentage tackler. He's got excellent ball skills and great awareness. And he's a football guy. And he's a tough guy. That's what he brings."
Despite the disappointing results last year, Tucker believes the experience gained by some of his younger players will help his unit going forward.
"I don't think we are starting over, necessarily, from every aspect, but in some areas with some guys it's new or a new start. But there was some ground work laid with some guys a year ago, guys that got a lot of playing time, a lot of experience, and that's going to carry over into this season. For example, a guy like Jon Bostic. We're building on some of his experience from a year ago that we think is going to help him moving more and there's other guys in that same category."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.