Posted by Andy Benoit
It’s hard to explain the fall of Mark Anderson. It hasn’t been quick, that’s for sure. His fall has actually been more of a tumble.
By now you know that Anderson exploded onto the NFL scene with a 12-sack rookie season. Then, apparently, he resolved to never steal the spotlight like that again. In the four seasons since his NFL debut, he has posted sack totals of 5, 1, 3.5 and 0 (2010). These are sack totals for seasons, not games.
Tuesday, the Bears finally said enough is enough. They released the either four-year underachiever or one-year overachiever. Replacing Anderson will be Charles Grant, the ninth-year veteran whom the Saints cut, ironically, after signing ex-Bear Alex Brown this past offseason.
Anderson’s lack of production will forever be a mystery. This wasn’t a Tommie Harris case where injuries tarnished a wealth of athleticism. Anderson has always had startling speed off the edge, and he seems to get faster when in pursuit (he made several splash plays this past Sunday night against the Giants). He has never been an adequate run-defender, though. Ultimately, this was his fatal flaw.
Grant is one of the better base end run anchors in the game. He tailed off somewhat after signing a mega contract in 2007, but he hasn’t exhibited any glaring effort issues.
That said, the Bears don’t necessarily need an elite run-defender on the edge. Including their second half debacle Sunday night, they’re giving up just 77 yards per game on the ground (sixth best in football). Israel Idonije, who wound up beating out Anderson for the starting job, is a big-bodied veteran who has experience playing inside. In other words, if the Bears want an anchor, they can turn to him.
But the Bears don’t need an anchor anyway. Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith run a Cover 2 scheme that prioritizes penetration from the front four and relies on star linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs to make plays. Skill-wise, Anderson is actually a better fit than Grant in Chicago’s scheme.
This isn’t to say the Bears made the wrong move. The coaches, who know Anderson better than anyone, have tried to upgrade at the end position before (remember the trade for the late Gaines Adams last year?). But since Grant is a questionable fit, don’t be surprised if fourth-round rookie Corey Wooten, a 270-pounder, is the one who ends up getting more playing time.
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