Defensive tackle depth for the Chicago Bears was a concern heading towards training camp in the next five weeks. The Bears had three legitimate defensive tackles on the roster, but lacked a true fourth defensive tackle. Had their been any injury the Bears would have been left with Nate Collins lining up to whomever the starter was and a converted defensive end manning the other DT spot.
Instead the trade to send Gabe Carimi to Tampa Bay cleared up enough cap space that the Bears were able to go out and sign former New Orleans Saints DT Sedrick Ellis. Ellis has been a bit of a career disappointment with the Saints as he's never really lived up to his seventh overall selection in the draft. Part of the reason the Saints didn't resign him was because they're making the switch to a 3-4 defense and Ellis doesn't fit into that scheme.
Another reason Ellis struggled is because of the way he was utilized in New Orelans, a two-gap 1-technique nose tackle against the run who had a chance to rush the passer . Ellis struggled mightily in this role on defense and it greatly effected his production with the Saints.
Coming out of college at USC Ellis was the preeminent 3-technique DT in the NFL draft. Say what you want about Glenn Dorsey, but there is no doubt in my mind that Ellis was a better prospect than Dorse in the 2008 draft. I saw Ellis play against ASU twice live against USC during his career there and saw many more of his games on tape.
At USC Ellis played in Pete Carroll's 43 defense in much the same way Lovie Smith's 43 one-gap scheme operates in Chicago. He was allowed to attack gaps and make plays and he did exceptionally well.
Ellis was dominant, he was strong, extremely explosive, agile and a very good tackler. He is arguably the best defensive tackle I've ever seen come out of college. With the Saints however he was cast in a role he was never suited for, that of a stack and shed pursuit DT forced to hold up at the point rather than to try and make a play.
When you watch Ellis on tape with the Saints in 2012 you see a player that is the complete opposite of what he was at USC. You see a slow player, a fat out of shape player that's struggling with his conditioning. Ellis is asked time and against to take on blockers in the run game rather than try to beat blockers. He'll hold up a blocker and then try and find the football rather than trying to defeat the blocker.
Ellis also says that he played at around 320-pounds with the Saints, a weight he's not likely comfortable carrying on his modest 6-foot-1 frame. It showed in how he played and in his conditioning as he didn't like to pursue the football with the same tenacity he did in college.
In the following two pictures from the All-22 Tape you can see Ellis' responsibility. Rather than exploding into the back field to make a play, Ellis is asked to track the football while trying to control the blocker at the point of attack. Ellis pursues down the line of scrimmage rather than getting into the gap and trying to be disruptive.
Watching as much film as I can on Ellis it becomes readily apparent the Saints didn't employ the same type of aggressive defense strategy that the Bears did. For Ellis to succeed in Chicago he's going to need to drop some considerable weight, while maintaining strength and finding his quickness. I can't say for certain if Ellis can be a top shelf backup for the Bears as their fourth defensive tackle.
Ellis not the same level of athlete as Amobi Okoye or Henry Melton so he likely jump out and impress anyone at camp. He must also answer the question of how quickly he can get in shape at 28-years-old.
The Bears have had a consistent level of talent and production that has come from their backup DTs. Ellis has the prerequisite talent to be that type of player, but he has a long way to get there in a short period of time. Ellis has the next five weeks to seriously dedicate himself as a player to be the backup 3-technique to Henry Melton.