Anderson plans return to rookie form

Matt Trowbridge

Mark Anderson didn’t start as a rookie fifth-round draft pick, yet he made more noise early in Chicago’s Super Bowl season than any Bear defender except Brian Urlacher.

Six sacks in October set a team record. He finished with 12, a team rookie record and the fourth-most by an NFL rookie in the last 25 years.

The Bears were so impressed they made him a starter last year, promoting Anderson over Alex Brown. And then Anderson disappeared.

“You can say teams started scheming against me, but I blame myself,” said Anderson, who finished with a quiet five sacks, struggled against the run, saw his solo tackles cut in half (from 35 to 16) and now once again backs up Brown. “Knowing teams were going to do a lot of chip blocking, I should have been prepared.”

Defensive coordinator Bob Babich refused to point any fingers at Anderson for the Bears fall from the NFL’s No. 5-ranked defense in 2006 to No. 28 last year.

“None of us had a good year, me included,” Babich said. “We are expecting overall a bounce-back year. All the players are included in that.

“Mark does a good job. We didn’t do a good job as a unit against the run, but nothing stood out with any individual where we said, ‘Hey, he can’t do that.’ We’re going to have a three-way rotation with those guys, just as we always have. They all have similar traits. They are our style defensive end: guys who aren’t massive defensive ends but have speed and can get off the ball on the corner and are very aggressive in their play.”

So Anderson is back in his rookie role. He won’t start, but he’ll play nearly as much as Brown and Adewale Ogunleye in Chicago’s “three-man rotation.”

“I don’t know when I’ll come in, but whenever I am out there, you know I am going to make something happen,” Anderson said. “You will know I am out there.”

His main role will be to rack up sacks, the defensive line equivalent of hitting a home run.

“A sack, man, that can change the game,” Anderson said. “Seriously. It’s a big-time play.

“And as long as you are getting pressure on the quarterback, it doesn’t even have to be a sack. Get your hands in his face, just being around him, you can startle the quarterback so he starts getting the ball out quicker. Having patience in the pocket, reading defenses – once you get pressure on him, all that is shut down.

“But being a big sack guy, that’s hard. Once teams see you are one of the elite players who can get to the quarterback, they start scheming on you, because they know you can stall their offense.”

Anderson stalled offenses as well as any Bears defensive end in years when he opened with 7 ½ sacks in his first seven games. He says he can do it again.

“I want to have a 10-times better season than what I had last year,” he said. “I have high expectations. I am ready to go for it.”

Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or

Mark Anderson

Who: Bears third-year defensive end.

Size: 6-foot-4, 255 pounds.

College: Alabama.

Drafted: Fifth round in 2006.

Starts: 1 game in 2006, 14 games in 2007.

Statistics: 48 tackles, 35 solos, 12 sacks for minus-102 yards, four forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 tackles for loss, 2 passes defended in 2006; 36 tackles, 16 solos, 5 sacks for 36 yards, 1 fumble recovered, 1 pass defended, 5 tackles for loss in 2007.