On the NFL
8:01 PM CDT, May 11, 2013
If Khaseem Greene can do for the Bears what he did for Rutgers, he soon will be in a group that includes Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers and Henry Melton.
Because what Greene did was make plays, as his new teammates have.
In fact, you could call Greene an extraordinary playmaker.
The fourth-round pick made 27 impact tackles at linebacker, tied for the most in college football, according to STATS. Impact tackles are defined as tackles on gains of 1 or 2 yards that do not result in first downs.
Greene forced six fumbles last year, also tied for most in the country.
He made plays moving backward. His coverage burn percentage of 51.6 percent was best among linebackers at the combine.
And he made plays moving forward. He had 21 pressures and 18 quarterback knockdowns, fourth-most among linebackers.
Said Greene: "I like to blitz. I like to cover. I just like to hit, really."
He has a nice package of skills, especially considering he became a linebacker only two years ago. Greene came to Rutgers as a 210-pound free safety. But he kept growing to the point where he now weighs 245.
If the trend continues, Greene will be playing defensive tackle next year. But he intends to make the needle on the scale start moving in the opposite direction.
"Coach (Greg) Schiano told me the bigger I got, the closer I would get to the ball," Greene said. "We needed more speed at the linebacker position, so he switched me."
Greene's safety roots help explain some of his strengths as a linebacker. And some of his weaknesses.
"The main thing it's done for me is help me be a better coverage linebacker," Greene said.
After all the work he did at safety, he said he now finds it second nature to cover running backs and anticipate pass-route moves. He knows what to expect from a tight end. He understands how a slot receiver will try to get open.
Greene can run sideline to sideline, and he can stay with the tight end down the seam. He has the athleticism and bulk to play any of the linebacker positions in the Bears' scheme, though he appears best suited for the position where he is starting out: the weak side.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker should be able to do a lot of things with Greene. He certainly has proved to be a dynamic blitzer.
"I'm quick," he said. "I've got a quick twitch. I'm instinctive."
But Greene does not always move like the most natural linebacker. That's understandable given his relative lack of experience at the position.
There is a difference in reading the play from 15 yards off the line, where safeties line up, and 5 yards off the line, where linebackers typically begin. Safeties have more time to react and more margin for error.
Greene does not always play downhill fast. If he did, he might have been a second-round pick instead of a fourth. But he said he believes he is improving at playing downhill.
He also is working on getting his pad level down.
"That's the big thing that (playing) safety does to you is it naturally keeps you high because you are always in an up-tall stance," he said. "You are so used to everything coming to you and you having time to do things, instead of now being a linebacker, it's see it, react, go."
Greene also missed 16 tackles last season, a big number. Part of that may be attributable to the fact he was going for the ball so much. He has become effective at batting the ball out.
"It's become second nature," he said. "A lot of times I do it without thinking. I see an opportunity and just go do it."
Greene said he has watched Tillman's style and plans on trying to learn from how he creates fumbles.
"My mentality is I want to get the ball back and I want to get it to my offense, or it would be even better if the defense could pick it up and score," he said. "That's my philosophy when it comes to defense is getting to the ball, creating takeaways and then just going from there."
Sounds like Greene should fit in quite nicely on the Bears defense.
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