Paea ready for bigger role with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The offseason departures of Anthony Adams and Amobi Okoye has set the stage for second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea to assume a much larger role in Lovie Smith's defense.

Paea, the Bears’ second-round draft choice out of Oregon State in 2011, battled a sore knee for much of the preseason and wound up inactive the first five games of his rookie year before dressing for the first time against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 16. In his NFL debut Paea sacked former Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb for a safety.

Paea ended up recording 18 tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss in a reserve capacity.

Without the benefit of participating in the 2011 offseason program due to the NFL lockout, Paea is relishing the time he gets to spend at the facility and in the classroom with the coaches heading into his second full season.

"The advantage for me right now is that I know my mistakes from last year, and I need to make sure they don't happen again during this season," Paea said Tuesday at Halas Hall. "Now all the assignments and the keys, it's all a review [during meetings]."

The Bears projected Paea as a three-technique coming out of college, but he was quickly moved to nose tackle last summer at the onset of training camp. Although the Bears might be eyeing another interior defensive lineman in the draft, Paea seems all but assured of a shot to challenge for a starting job, if not earn one outright.

"If we just have four guys who want to hunt the quarterback or ball carrier every time, we're going to have a breakout (year)," Paea said. "It doesn't matter if it's me, Matt Toeaina, Henry Melton, we all have confidence in each other. If you have confidence in each other, it will play out right."