By Bryan Dietzler
The Chicago Bears’ defense has been playing increasingly well over the last few games and is starting to look like Bears’ defenses of old. How do they stack up now that the season is half over? What do their grades look like?
Most everyone on Chicago’s defense has been playing very well so far, this season. From the guys on the defensive line to the safeties in the backfield, this defense looks great. And as fans, we have the individual players, as well as defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to thank for the success that they have had.
Now if the Bears could have that same success on offense, they would be a playoff contender.
We will look for the defense to help win additional games this season by continuing to play the way it has been over the course of the last few games.
And we should see no letdown in what the defense can do in the team’s remaining eight games.
The following are the Bearsgab mid-season grades for each positional unit on defense. I will assign individual grades to some of the players and then unit grades. The grading system for the players is based on a points system which on a 1-5 number system and goes like this:
And the grading system I will use for the units is by letter grade, and that should be self-explanatory.
Here are my unit and individual grades for the Bears offense.
This group has been solid this season and is led by a player who may be the Bears’ only All-Pro, Akiem Hicks. Hicks has been a force on the defensive line and has proven that he was well worth his contract.
Hopefully, he will continue to be productive.
Jonathan Bullard has stepped it up this season and is seeing situational duty while Mitch Unrein has been holding his own. Roy Robertson-Harris suffered an injury in the Carolina game but should be back soon.
Unit Grade-A- -These guys are spot on and one of the better groups in the NFL. If they can continue to produce they will be a top tier unit by the end of the season.
Chicago has just two defensive tackles or nose tackles as they are commonly referred to in the 3-4 scheme. Eddie Goldman, who has spent a lot of time injured in the past is having a Pro Bowl season in the middle. He has become one of their best players. John Jenkins has been inactive on gameday, for the most part, participating in just one game.
Goldman makes this a stellar group.
Unit Grade-B+ -This is pretty much a one-man show with Goldman. Will he make his first ever Pro Bowl? It’s possible.
This group is manned by two very capable starters. Leonard Floyd has been showing some flashes of greatness this season and is coming along nicely. The Bears just need to get more production out of him. Pernell McPhee is finally healthy, and the Bears are starting to see what they thought they had in him. Now, if he can just remain healthy and set it up a bit this combination may be one of the best in the NFL.
Sam Acho is solid. He comes in to help provide some rest for the starters now and then.
Unit Grade-B+ -If these guys can finish the year strong, this grade will be an A. They are so close to being one of the best outside linebacker tandems in the NFL, we just need to see them step it up a bit.
The Bears have some quality inside linebackers despite the fact Jerrell Freeman is on injured reserve. Danny Trevathan has come back from an injury last year and has played well. Christian Jones is playing at a high level. This is the best year for Jones who has been with the Bears for several seasons but has not stepped up until this year. Trevathan is as good as advertised and gets better with every game.
Both Jones and Trevathan are the backbone of this Bears’ defense.
Nick Kwiatkoski was injured early in the season but is back. He cannot regain his starting job, however, thanks to the way Jones is playing. That’s a good problem for the Bears to have. John Timu has had to step in and play at times but got hurt. He should be ready to go now.
Unit Grade-A- -This grade will get better if these guys can continue to play like they have been. They should be one of the best inside linebacker groups in the NFL.
The Bears have three capable starting cornerbacks in Kyle Fuller, Marcus Cooper, and Prince Amukamara. Fuller, especially, has been playing lights out this season and is one of the reasons why the Bears’ pass defense has been so solid. This rotation works well and gives the Bears some depth and options at the position.
Bryce Callahan has been solid at the nickel spot but is a little banged up. He is also struggling with tackling which was evident against the Saints. Hopefully, he gets healthy and learns how to wrap up the ball carrier. Cre’Von LeBlanc is a capable replacement and can fill in as needed.
This group is so much better than it was last year and should continue to play well for the rest of 2017.
Cre’Von LeBlanc-0.0 (he has not seen enough action to be graded)
Unit Grade-B+ -There is so much improvement here but a little more room for it. This could be a top unit in the NFL by the time the season is over.
The Bears have finally gotten to the point where they have a good set of starters at safety after suffering through several seasons without quality talent. They started out the season with Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson as their starters but after Demps got hurt, Adrian Amos stepped in and has done very well. Jackson and Amos just might be one of the best safety duos in the league right now.
This is easily one of the Bears’ best units on defense.
Unit Grade-A- -This group is near perfect. Just a little more production is needed, and we can call them one of the best in the league.
What can you say about Connor Barth? He’s inconsistent that’s for sure. Having made just 7 out of 11 attempts this season Barth is not a reliable kicker. The Bears need to do something either this season or in the offseason. However, it’s highly doubtful the Bears will let him go this season.
No Unit Grade
With an average of 48.2, Pat O’Donnell can be considered a successful punter. He’s had some booming kicks and is a weapon in the field position game.
No Unit Grade
Return and Coverage Teams
The real star of this group is Sherrick McMannis. McMannis is one of the best special teams players in the NFL and has been an asset to the Bears. The unfortunate thing for him is that he has been hurt. You can tell the Bears need him too as their play in special teams has declined just a bit since he’s been out. Long snapper Andrew DePaola is doing well and may return next season.
The return teams still need some work as the Bears have used a combination or return men but still haven’t found the right one
Unit Grade-C -This group has had its good and bad moments and its bad moments showed in the game against the Ravens. Hopefully, they tighten things up and play better over the course of the last few games.