Wootton makes strides; still needs work

Corey Wootton has been praised for his motor and toughness, but his technique needs work. Jerry Lai/US Presswire

Former Northwestern standout Corey Wootton plays too tall, according to Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a place for the rookie in the club’s defensive line rotation.

“Other than playing too tall -- he stands up too much, too high -- what I’ve really been impressed with is his mental toughness,” Marinelli said. “Every down, he plays hard. He’s physical. He listens. He’s not thin-skinned, and he’s getting better every day. I mean, he plays real hard, now. I’m impressed with that.”

The key for Wootton finding a niche lies in refining the fundamentals, something as simple as remembering to bend his knees while on the attack. Against the Chargers last week, Wooton didn’t register any official statistics for a defensive line that produced just one quarterback hit and one sack -- Nick Roach -- in approximately 69 snaps.

Marinelli disagreed with the notion that playing too tall would likely always be a deficiency in Wootton’s game.

“You just have to keep emphasizing it,” Marinelli said. “He needs to become a knee bender, [and develop] the body mechanics you need, and the sled work. When it gets tough on them is when their legs get a little tired. Now you don’t want to bend [your knees] as much. You just have to keep emphasizing pad level. What I do like about him: this guy has a great motor.”

But will that be enough to for the fourth-round pick to earn one of the roster spots on the defensive line?

It’s hard to tell right now. But the Bears typically give draft picks a little more time to develop, which definitely tilts things in Wootton’s favor. In the past, the club has kept nine defensive linemen. Wooton is currently in contention with a group of young on-the-bubble players such as Henry Melton and Jarron Gilbert for a roster spot.

General manager Jerry Angelo expressed optimism about the development of Melton, who has worked some at the under-defensive tackle spot, while indicating he needed to see improvement from Gilbert, a third-round pick in 2009.

“We think he’s going to really blossom this year,” Angelo said of Melton, before adding that Gilbert’s “got to pick it up.”

“We want to keep the best players,” Angelo said. “We could get by with eight [defensive linemen]. We’ve done that, but we like to think we’ll have nine defensive linemen and those will be on our best 53.”