Chicago Bears and defense are usually one and the same, although not in recent memory. The Bears have been synonymous for their defensive prowess for decades. With a three-year departure at the defensive end of the football, the Bears seem due for a strong season. A great season by the Bears’ defense could result in a surprise trip to the playoffs.
There are some obvious concerns on that side of the ball, but the Bears can actually have an elite defense as long as a few things work in their favor.
Can the Bears’ defense stop opposing teams from running wild on them?
The answer to that question should have been answered in the NFL Draft. When most observers felt that the Bears should do something to the defensive line on the edge, they stunned people by going in a different direction. Moving up in the draft to take (courtesy of the NFL website) Georgia’s Leonard Floyd at No. 9 was a pure sign that the Bears wanted to generate a pass rush. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Floyd is already turning heads.
“Floyd is making a lot of strides as a pass rusher and he’s going to get lots of opportunities, especially with Pernell McPhee sidelined. Even when McPhee returns, Floyd will be on the field a lot and he won’t be limited to passing situations. The Bears moved him inside twice in pass-rushing situations against the Broncos, a sign of how coordinator Vic Fangio can be creative with what sets up to be one of the deeper positions on the roster with Willie Young and Lamarr Houston.”
Floyd’s upside is that of a Hall of Fame outside linebacker. If the Bears can develop his potential and turn it into production, Floyd can turn into the next Derrick Thomas. Someone who mixes speed and power to get around pass blockers is what the Bears’ rookie can turn into.
Floyd must learn the nuances of the NFL, while understanding that he will not dominate every foe. Learning from mistakes, getting reps, and learning the defensive playbook are all keys to his success.
The downside to the Bears having taken a risk on Leonard Floyd is that speed alone does not translate in the NFL. That is, unless you handle kickoff and punt return duties. Floyd being on the return team does little for the Bears if they want to capitalize on their investment. Floyd’s ability to stop the running game will go a long way in determining how good he can be, as well as the Bears on defense. Sacks alone will not define him as a player.
An outside linebacker cannot just rush the quarterback. Stopping the rush is doubly important.
Keeping the opposing team’s running back from gobbling up yardage is mandatory this season. This is why the Bears added a few veterans in the front seven.
Linebackers Danny Trevathan and Josh Freeman will both take on the starting inside linebacker spots on the Bears’ 3-4 scheme. They are different from the players who they have replaced, Shea McClellin and Christian Jones. Trevathan and Freeman are sure tacklers.
The Bears had several embarrassing moments when McClellin and Jones lined up. Some of those instances included McClellin being dragged five yards or more while trying to secure a tackle. Do not expect such things with Trevathan and Freeman.
Cornerback play is a legitimate concern for the Bears. Each player comes with a question mark.
They are led by Tracy Porter, who has the talent to be a Pro-Bowl cornerback if he could stay healthy. Besides Porter, who is 30, every cornerback who will have a substantial role is under the age of 25. The same can be said for the safeties.
If the secondary can grow and play average coverage, while forcing turnovers, opposing teams will not gain as many yards as they did on the Bears last season.
Another season is on the horizon for the Chicago Bears as they try to get back to the things which once defined them — defense. The Bears’ defense can become an elite unit as long as a couple of things go their way. It starts with rookie Leonard Floyd and the rest of the linebackers. It ends with the secondary. Fans will get to determine how good the Bears can be in the coming weeks.
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]