Bears draft preview: Defensive ends

USC's Nick Perry is one of five defensive ends the Bears are known to have worked out or hosted before the draft. Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

The need to boost the pass rush seems to always serve as an offseason theme in recent years for the Chicago Bears headed into the draft.

The club’s responses to the deficiency have become monotonous.

“Do we need to do a better job with it? Yes,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “I think those guys would say that. We’re saying that because we’re capable of doing more.”

The difference now, though, is the Bears seem to have intensified their search to add a capable pass rusher opposite Julius Peppers, and it appears the club could target a defensive end with the 19th pick in the NFL draft. The Bears’ pre-draft activities seem to indicate as much.

Of the top 20 players at the position, the Bears have either worked out or hosted at least five of the prospects including South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, and Southern Cal’s Nick Perry, in addition to West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin, and Tim Fugger of Vanderbilt.

The extensive work done on the prospects surely stems from the team’s production in 2011. The Bears tied for 19th in sacks last season, with 17 of their 33 sacks coming from the defensive end position. The club brought back veteran Israel Idonije (five sacks in 2011) for another season, but it’s likely the Bears would use him as a rotational player if it can land a starter in the draft to play opposite Peppers.

“Julius Peppers is arguably the best player in the NFL. That’s what I think,” Smith said. “He will very seldom lead the league in sacks because he gets respect; always double-teamed, triple-teamed.”

That’s exactly why it’s imperative the Bears land another pass rusher at some point in the draft, especially in a division with so many talented quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.

The next 10:11. Trevor Guyton, California, 6-3, 285; 12. Cam Johnson, Virginia, 6-4, 268; 13. Malik Jackson, Tennessee, 6-5, 284; 14. Jake Bequette, Arkansas, 6-5, 274; 15. Jack Crawford, Penn State, 6-5, 274; 16. Jacquies Smith, Missouri, 6-3, 253; 17. Justin Francis, Rutgers, 6-2, 268; 18. Tim Fugger, Vanderbilt, 6-3, 248; 19. Kourtnei Brown, Clemson, 6-5, 256; 20. Frank Alexander, Oklahoma, 6-4, 270.

Position grade: B.

Analysis:The Bears have scoured this year’s class extensively to find what they believe could be a fit opposite Peppers. They shouldn’t experience too many problems finding it because of the sheer depth of this class, headlined by Melvin Ingram and Quentin Coples. The Bears have either worked out or hosted at least five of the top 20 players at the position. That’s a strong indication that at some point, the team will draft a defensive end.