Whatever happened to defensive tackle Henry Melton? As it turns out, coach Lovie Smith has been wondering the same thing.
Melton lived up to mild preseason hype with two sacks and six pressures in the Bears’ 30-12 victory against the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener at Soldier Field. But he has been relatively quiet since then, with one sack, one tackle for loss and 13 pressures in the next six games.
‘‘I mentioned that to Henry today; he hasn’t showed up as much,” Smith said in a rare public criticism Thursday. ‘‘Whether teams have adjusted to him or whatever, we need to get more production from him because he’s capable of it.”
Melton, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009, acknowledged his play since the opener has been just OK, and friends told him opponents had taken notice after his big game against the Falcons.
‘‘I’m just trying to find some consistency,” he said. ‘‘I want to be a playmaker. I feel like I’m always one step away from making a big play. It’s just going back to trying to work on some more explosion and get that extra edge during the week.”
Smith said he is hopeful the midseason break will improve Melton’s performance.
‘‘Sometimes you have this break, you get recharged a little bit,” Smith said. ‘‘We need Henry to come back to the way he started the season. In order for us to do things this next part of our season, our defensive line has to really take off. Henry’s a big part of that.”
Carimi on hold
Offensive line coach Mike Tice indicated rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi, who is recovering from a partially dislocated knee, won’t start Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears think they are strong enough with Chris Spencer at right guard and Lance Louis at right tackle that they can take their time with Carimi.
‘‘I’m pretty sure you guys are saying the same things I’m thinking, which is right now we’re getting better,” Tice said. ‘‘You’ve got a guy coming off an extended period of time out, so .â€‰â€‰.â€‰â€‰. why force it?”
Carimi still is considered the starting right tackle, so he’ll return to the lineup as soon as the Bears think he’s ready.
‘‘Before he got hurt, I thought he was our best lineman,” Tice said. ‘‘So I would have to think if he got back to that at any time, he’s going to be back on the field.”
Toughing it out
Tice said J’Marcus Webb, who hasn’t made quite the impact this season at left tackle that he did last season at right tackle, has been battling previously undisclosed injuries: sprained ankles, a sprained knee and now an elbow injury. Webb is wearing braces on the injured knee and elbow.
‘‘We needed the time off,” Tice said. ‘‘It was good for them to get a little break. Sometimes it’s good to reflect and see what you can do better. I think they did that. They came back enthusiastic, [in] great spirits and [with] a little more pep to their step.”