By Bryan Dietzler
A little while ago, we took an in-depth look at what was wrong with the Bear’s offense. In this article, we will take a look at what issues the Bears have on defense and what the issues may have been. Granted, things are a little bit easier now that the Bears have another, solid win under their belt, but they still have a lot of work to do. They started out the season slow and on a serious low note losing games thanks to the defense. Now, they have something to build on will hope to find continued success this season.
We are going to take a close look at the Bears defense, group by group, and see what the group has failed to do in previous games, how they are looking now and what the future holds.
The defensive line has had an up and down season. They haven’t suffered as many injuries as the secondary has but they had one significant one when their anchor tackle, Eddie Goldman, went out. Goldman is a force in the middle and when he returns, which should be soon, the Bears defense should be that much better, especially up the middle. His absence has made the center of the Bear’s defense weak and this has caused issues in earlier games this season.
Aside from Goldman, the Bears really only have one “star” on the line and that is Akeem Hicks. Hicks has been hot and cold all season but came on strong in the Bear’s game against the Vikings. Hopefully he will be able keep it up in the coming games and give the Bears the spark they need.
The depth on the line is pretty solid but not it’s not full of all-pro quality players. Jonathan Bullard was touted as being a very talented addition to the team but he hasn’t shined as much as some thought he would. He is young and still learning Mitch Unrein is a pretty solid. This is a decent group but one that lacks star power. If they can perform well the rest of this season this defense will have a chance to do some good things. But in the offseason, they need to do some work on the line to improve it.
This writer has talked about the linebackers a lot this season and has helped to sing their praises. They are the best group on the team hands down. They have great starting talent, excellent depth and each one is a true playmaker.
The linebacker group has two positive success stories so far this season. One is Jerrell Freeman. The former Indianapolis Colt has come on big for the Bears and has easily been their best defender. He often leads the team in tackles every game and puts together critical stops at critical moments. He just might be the Bear’s best defender overall.
An up and coming player who has recently ramped up his play following a rough training camp and start to the season is Leonard Floyd. Floyd has had a pretty solid last couple of games and is starting to show why the Bears took him with the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. If he can get a little bigger without sacrificing speed, he could be a great find.
The rest of the linebacking corps is very solid. Pernell McPhee is finally back and contributing. Danny Trevethan, this year’s big free agent acquisition, missed a little time because of a thumb injury but has been playing steady. This is a good group of guys that, as long as they can stay healthy, will continue to shine.
The weak link on defense has been the secondary. There have been injuries, poor play and mistakes made by this group all season. They struggled up until their last game against the Vikings. They lost one of their starters, Kyle Fuller, before the season began leaving a gap on one side at cornerback. Tracy Porter has been filling in nicely but has been injured a little this season. His best game was against the Vikings.
Chicago has had Jacoby Glenn in as a starter and he was hot and cold (mostly cold). The corner position opposite Porter has been very unstable and opponents have been targeting that side of the field often. When they do that, they have success. The Bears have depth at the cornerback spot but that depth is not well developed. They need to develop their younger players and prepare them for the future.
The safety position has been ordinary this season. Adrian Amos has been ok but not spectacular and may have regressed a little bit since last year (which was his rookie season). There has been a little bit of a revolving door at the other safety positon. Harold Jones-Quartey and Chris Prosinski share the duties there. Jones-Quartey is a hard hitter and good against the run. Prosinski is the opposite. The Bears need to find a good safety that can do both. It’s not going to happen this year.
The secondary needs to get better if this team plans to win games. Through the first few games of the season, opponents have had good success passing the ball against the Bears. Some of this has to do with the secondary as well as the Bear’s pass rush which, up until recently, hasn’t gotten a lot of pass pressure. The Bears have a lot of youth in the secondary and it may be another season before those guys are able to contribute successfully. This unit will be a good one, if not a great one, in the future.
Coaching on defense has been good and as far as anyone can tell, it would appear as if the execution is the problem. You can tell when players are out of position and unable to make plays. There are misses by some of the guys. But there have also been a lot of injuries and several revolving doors so the learning curve has been steep for some of the players. We all know that some of the talent on this team is not developed yet and needs some additional time to learn.
Vic Fangio is the defensive coordinator and he has done what he can with what he has. Fangio has put together some strong defenses in the past (see the San Francisco 49ers from a few years ago) and he has the basis to put another strong one together in Chicago. When the talent develops and the execution gets better, he will have a winning defense. It will take time.
So is the defense the number one culprit in the Bear’s six losses this season or is the offense is the one that has made this team lose? You can say that both side of the ball have had a big hand in contributing to the Bear’s woes. The offense has been unable to score points to keep up with opponents but the games the Bears have lost this season have been pretty close. The defense has crumbled in at least two games giving way to victories by the opposition.
Honestly, it’s been a pretty equal effort by both the offense and defense (to lose games) but the defense has seemed to break down when it has mattered most. This has happened quite often when the offense has managed to get the Bears a lead. Hopefully the defense will be able to build on their effort against the Vikings, continue to play well and help this team win games.
The future is bright for the Bear’s defense and everyone hopes to see improvement with this unit as the season goes on. The Vikings game could have been just the start of a solid and ever improving move forward for this unit. The defense does have the talent to become the best unit on the team and could accomplish that by the end of the season.