It’s a simple word, but not for the Chicago Bears. For them, it’s an identity. Defense has been the lifeblood of the franchise since its origins as players like Bill George, Clyde Turner, Doug Atkins, Harold Jones, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary did more than merely play their respective positions, but rather, defined them.
More recently, Bears fans have been given the pleasure to watch players like Mike Brown, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher dominate on the Soldier Field grass. Just thinking of every player mentioned, instills a strong sense of pride within Bears fans.
However, over the past couple of seasons, Bears fans have been withheld from feeling pride in the defensive play of their team. The last time the Bears fielded a top-ten defense was in 2012, a squad that finished fifth in overall defense and third in points allowed. After that season, the Bears spiraled downward in a hurry as they were the third worst defense in both 2013 and 2014.
Then, just a year ago, Vic Fangio turned the trend around and coached up an underwhelming unit that finished as the 14th ranked defense. That’s right, with Christian Jones and Shea McClellin as the starting inside linebackers, who are the complete opposite of a Butkus or Singletary, the Bears were able to finish in the top half of the league on defense.
Entering this season …
Bears fans should not be afraid to feel pride for their defense. Ryan Pace has done a phenomenal job at turning last season’s weaknesses into strengths. Instead of the vulnerable duo at inside linebacker, Chicago will field arguably one of the best pairs at the position with Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman taking over.
One of the weaknesses of last season’s defense was the inability to stop the run. The Bears finished 22nd in that category, and both Trevathan and Freeman will turn that around, however, they are not alone. The addition of Akiem Hicks and rookie Jonathan Bullard too will sure up the Bears run defense.
Getting to the quarterback was another struggle in 2015. The team’s 35 sacks were good for 22nd in the league. However, that problem too looks to be solved. All four players mentioned above will not only help the run defense but also they will assist in the pass rush. Trevathan especially will be sent on blitzes to get after opposing quarterbacks. Bullard and Hicks will do a better job at setting the edge for pass rushers Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, and of course, first-rounder Leonard Floyd.
We saw glimpses of what’s to come in the first preseason game, as the Bears starting front seven was dominant and was able to put constant pressure on the quarterback.
With this unit getting to the quarterback more often than a year ago, it will force opposing quarterbacks to make more errors, which in turn, should create more interceptions. This was an area where Chicago struggled last season. The Bears finished with the second-lowest number of interceptions with eight. Despite the lack of interceptions, last year’s secondary did better than most believe, as the Bears gave up the fourth fewest pass yards per game (224.6). The revamped front seven will allow the secondary to be more aggressive. Thus, the interceptions numbers should rise this season.
Why Give a Damn?
It’s time to feel pride for our defense again. It can be hard as the past few seasons have not supplied Bears fans with any sliver of a reason to do so.
But, those days are behind us. They were just a small hiccup in the storied history of the Chicago Bears and their defense. No, we don’t have a Butkus or even an Urlacher, but guess what?
We don’t have a McClellin either.
Instead, we have a fearful duo at inside linebacker, a formidable defensive line, a group of talented and hungry pass rushers and a young secondary that has potential.
Now is the time to welcome back the feeling of pride for the Bears defense. It’s time to give a damn.