- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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In acquiring former sixth overall pick Vernon Gholston, the Bears looked beyond the bust label commonly associated with him.
Gholston’s five starts in three seasons, with no sacks, and a trio of healthy scratches over his career likely scared teams away once the NFL returned to the business of consummating transactions.
But not the Bears, who think there’s still a chance for Gholston to finally blossom.
“For us, we looked and we saw a talented player,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “A player that… there was a reason he was drafted high as he was by the Jets. Hey, divorce is a part of our lives. It happens sometimes for whatever reason. You just kind of move on. For us, he’s a talented athlete. We’re going to put him in a position where we think he’s going to have a little more success.”
It’s believed that Gholston’s disappointing career has been partly a result of coaching and position changes. Gholston played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at Ohio State, and then moved to 3-4 outside linebacker with the New York Jets playing for Eric Mangini.
Gholston played linebacker in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 system when the coach took over the Jets in 2009, before moving back to defensive end in 2010, a position -- because of the scheme -- still a world apart from what he’d been used to in the Buckeyes’ 4-3 defense.
“He’ll have his hand down instead of [playing] a stand up end position [like in a 3-4],” Smith said. He’ll be in a three-point stance rushing the passer most of the time. We’re going to give him a shot. Everything has added up for us to give him that shot.”
Should Gholston succeed in revitalizing his career with the Bears, it probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to the Jets, who released him in March, but insisted he was making strides. Ryan felt that Gholston’s circumstances stunted his growth somewhat.
But in Chicago, Gholston will work with Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, whom defensive tackles Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison refer to as “a guru.” Physically, Gholston (6-3, 260 pounds) possesses the attributes to develop into a dangerous complement to Julius Peppers.
That’s what the Bears saw in looking to acquire him. But will Gholston ever live up to his high billing?
“I think Vernon still has the chance to have a productive NFL career,” Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told ESPN.com at the NFL owners meetings back in March. “Obviously, he didn’t play to the level of the sixth pick in the draft, but he’s a great kid. His career is far from over.”
It’s now up to the Bears to jumpstart it.