There is a place for Will Sutton in the Bears’ 3-4 defense. The second-year defensive tackle knows it and plans to prove it.
“I’m going to come out here and compete,” Sutton said during organized team activities last week at Halas Hall. “They want the best guys on the field.”
Sutton, a decorated tackle at Arizona State, was a third-round selection by former general manager Phil Emery in 2014. Sutton, with his quickness, athleticism and body type, was considered ideal for three-technique tackle in the Bears’ base 4-3 defense.
The issue for Sutton now is that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio isn’t going to run that scheme. Fangio’s implementation of a 3-4 defense has seemingly made Sutton a player without a position.
Sutton, though, isn’t buying that. He says it’s a misconception that he’s solely a three-technique for a 4-3 defense.
During organized team activities, Sutton has worked plenty at nose tackle. It’s been an adjustment because of different techniques and responsibilities, including pressing the center and guard instead of trying to penetrate through them.
“I just need to do what I need to do and play,” Sutton said. “I don’t have to be a typical nose guard if I can go out there and make plays.”
At 6-0 and 303 pounds, Sutton doesn’t exactly fall in line with some of the space-eating behemoths that have played nose in 3-4 defenses over the years. But he may not have to be for things to click under Fangio.
With the San Francisco 49ers, Fangio turned to Ian Williams at nose tackle for nine starts last season. At 6-1 and 305 pounds, Williams is barely bigger than Sutton. Quinton Dial (6-5, 318 pounds) started six games at nose.
Fangio also has described his scheme as a hybrid with some “old-school 3-4” and “a lot of 4-3 principles.” He said the three-technique in his defense is similar to 4-3 defenses, meaning there could be a spot for Sutton.
The scheme change doesn’t stress out Sutton. He’s trying to embrace everything, which includes learning end, too.
“It feels good,” said Sutton, who started five games his rookie season. “I’m a ‘D’ lineman. … It’s really not that hard of a transition. You just have to adjust to defense and the scheme.”
Sutton said there’s a place for speed up front in Fangio’s system, but there are still differences, especially at nose.
“It’s just the stance and just getting comfortable with getting out of being more squared up than really getting off the ball and penetrating,” Sutton said. “That’s probably the biggest thing right there.”
Sutton’s cause is aided by general manager Ryan Pace’s confidence — at least for time being.
Pace didn’t sign a lineman after releasing end Ray McDonald. He seems content with the nine players, including Sutton, vying for playing time in this three-man front.
“Whoever is out there competing and making plays, that’s who is going to play,” Sutton said. “We just have to wait and see when we get those pads on.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns