By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Given the performance of the Bears defense over the past two seasons, any noise surrounding the job security of coordinator Mel Tucker is justified. He’s earned the right to be speculated about.
Last season, the Bears defense ranked dead last against the run. This season, the unit has become target practice for opposing quarterbacks. The Bears have given up league-highs in passing touchdowns (30) and total points (374).
When pressed for comments about the rumors surrounding his job security, Tucker maintained his focus is purely on facing the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.
“It’s really nothing new,” Tucker said about the outside noise. “I’ve been doing this 18 years, eight in college and 10 in the NFL. It’s about staying focused at the task at hand. That’s being a professional and focusing on what you can do and what you can control.”
Tuckers’s name has also been floated out there as a possibility for the newly vacated job at Wisconsin, his alma mater, where he played safety from 1992 through 1995.
Tucker sidestepped that question like Jordy Nelson did the Bears’ secondary this season.
“That’s a hypothetical,” Tucker said. “I try to stay out of those. Ultimately, the sole focus is New Orleans and preparing for those guys. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about right now.”
A plan for Graham
One player Tucker will surely be focused on Monday is Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. While Graham hasn’t put up the numbers that most are accustomed to, he’s still the centerpiece of the Saints’ prolific passing attack.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong,” Tucker said. “He has a big catch radius. They use him all over the formation to create mismatches. They try to get him on a linebacker. They try to get him on a safety, try to get him on the corner. He’s toward the top of the league in terms of run-and-catch tight ends. He’s a matchup problem on every film that you put in.”
The Bears have paid attention to the Panthers’ game plan last week, which limited Graham to three catches and 25 yards on 11 targets. But Tucker knows the challenge he poses to the Bears’ suspect secondary.
“Obviously we need to know where he is at all times,” Tucker said. “People have tried different things with him. None of it has seemed to work. We’ll work on our plan. People have tried to jam him at the line. That has been effective at times for him, but he does do a good job against press coverage at well. He’s a really good player.”
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.