By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears have one of the better defensive coordinators in the league in Vic Fangio and the team has made a transition from the 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense.
It was stated that it would take a season to rebuild the defense and make it function properly but the defense showed some early signs of success starting from the time they played the Seahawks (where they allowed only one touchdown) and then through their game against the Chiefs.
However, the defense had a breakdown of epic proportions in their game against the Lions and now there are some things that need to be fixed or adjusted in order to make the defense play better.
The following is a look at some of the highlights of the Bears defense so far this season as well as a look at a few of the players that have made an impact or need to make an impact on the team. Finally there is a quick look at what the coaching staff can do to fix the problems on defense and make this unit much better.
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is the heart and soul of the Bear’s defense and maybe the heart and soul of the team. He had a rather quiet game against the Lions until he was called for what many feel was a non-existent roughing the passer call and then he got a big sack in overtime.
McPhee plays hard on every down and makes plays, for the most part, when they are needed to be made. He might have been able to ratchet things up a bit against the Lions but it appears as if Detroit was doing a good job of rendering him relatively ineffective.
McPhee needs to keep playing with the same intensity that he has played with in previous games and if the can continue to lead the defense and play up to his potential the Bears defense should do much better.
The Bears just recently cut Jeremiah Ratliff, their best player on the defensive line, so someone else is going to need to step up there and play better.
Whether it’s Eddie Goldman, Jarvis Jenkins, Will Sutton or the newly signed Ziggy Hood, a players is going to have to be a difference maker on that unit. The Bears will miss a lot without Ratliff in the lineup so hopefully some of the younger guys will be able to come in and help the defensive line play better.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller’s name was mentioned early and often in the season but not for good things. He was racking up the pass interference penalties and not covering receivers that well.
He stepped up his game in the Bear’s victories and played pretty well but, like the rest of the defense, took a step back in the game against the Lions. Fuller is developing into a pretty solid cornerback who doesn’t have his name mentioned that often (which is good for a player at his position) and he’s starting to play better in his second year.
It appears as if he’s gotten over the problems that plagued him early on in the season but just needs to play more consistently.
Linebacker Shea McClellin was injured in the Bear’s game against the Chiefs and missed the game against the Lions. He is the defensive signal caller (the quarterback of the defense) and it showed that the Bears missed him against the Lions.
McClellin might be out a little longer than expected depending on the severity of his knee injury and with that the Bears will rely on Christian Jones to call the plays in the defensive huddle.
It’s important that the Bears get him back as soon as possible because he needs to be there to set the alignments and call the proper defensive plays as it is assured that McClellin knows the defense better than anyone.
One thing that was very evident in the Bear’s game against the Lions was that they had a serious lack of a pass rush. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was able to throw with relative ease for a majority of the game and the lack of a pass rush left the Bears secondary to deal with all of the down the field throws.
This was a disaster for the defense. The Bears need to get more production out of their front seven rushing the passer and that starts up front on the defensive line. They need to ensure that all of their players are healthy and ready to go and they need to get more production out of their outside linebackers especially Pernell McPhee.
Look for the coaching staff to find more ways to get to the quarterback during their bye week and ratchet up the pass pressure on future opponents.
The Bears run defense has suffered at times in the past six games and needs to get better. They did do a decent job against the run when they played the Raiders and the Chiefs but it all broke down in the Lions game as an anemic Lions rushing attack was able to run roughshod over the Bear’s defense.
Chicago’s coaching staff needs to tighten up their run defense and some ways to do that include getting healthy at all positions on defense and playing a better scheme. As previously mentioned, McClellin’s absence in the Detroit game may have hurt because the Bears didn’t line up properly or get adjusted correctly and therefore they may been out of position to make plays. Missed tackles are to blame for some of the struggles as well. Chicago needs to clean up its run defense better in the future in order to win games.
Finally, one other area the Bears are struggling is in the secondary defending against the pass. We talked a little bit about Fuller’s actions in the secondary but the Bears have had other struggles.
Once again injuries have taken hold on that unit. Cornerback Alan Ball missed some time and safety Antrel Rolle is out with an ankle injury so the Bears have been hurting in the secondary. Having a solid pass rush up front will help them but they need to cover better and do a better job against the opposing team’s number one wide receiver. If they can do that they will have success in the future.
The Lions game really showed some deficiencies on defense for the Bears and there is a lot for them to clean up. Hopefully the coaching staff can take the bye week and look at some of these problem areas and make some adjustments so that the defense plays better in the coming weeks.
Having the bye week will also get the players that are injured healthier (like McClellin and Rolle) so that should make a difference as well. The Bears were seeing success in their games against the Raiders and the Chiefs but the bottom dropped out when they played the Lions. Hopefully the defense will be able to get back to the way that that they were before and play much better.