Continuing with this Chicago Bears progress report series, we take a look at the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive Tackles– A
The Defensive Tackle group have taken their game to a whole other level and it is led by the team leader in sacks Henry Melton. The three technique tackle position in the Bears Tampa-two is one of the more important roles in the scheme, and Melton has performed at a Pro Bowl level at that position.
Stephen Paea looks to have taken another step in his second year in the league. The Nose Tackle has been commanding double teams, freeing up Melton to get one-on-one opportunities. He’s also contributed at three technique and has gotten significant pressure on opposing Quarterbacks thus far this season.
Amobi Okoye has been a pretty good rotational player as he was last season for the Bears, and we still haven’t seen talented guys like Nate Collins and Matt Toeaina get much playing time yet. Top to bottom, this might be the Bears deepest DT rotation in Lovie Smith tenure.
Defensive Ends– A
Julius Peppers has been battling Plantar Fasiitis from training camp to throughout the first quarter of the regular season. That hasn’t stop Peppers from making a big impact week-in-week-out as the leader on that defensive line.
On the other side of the line, rookie Shea McClellin, veteran Israel Idonije, and third year player Corey Wootton have cashed in on the one-on-one opportunities presented because of the attention Peppers generates.
Lance Briggs in my opinion has been the defense MVP through the first quarter of the season. All the talk this off-season has been about the concern of the age in this defense specifically the LB duo of Briggs and Brian Urlacher, but in Briggs case he’s still quicker, faster, and more explosive in his 10th year in the league.
Urlacher looks to still be bothered by that knee injury he suffered last season, but is improving each week. Nick Roach is still proving to be a solid starting Strong-Side LB in this league.
The position was looked at to be a weakness coming into the season because you didn’t know what you were going to get from Tim Jennings. Not only has Jennings been one of the best defenders in this first quarter of the season, but he’s been the best defender in the NFC, as he won NFC defensive player of the month today.
Jennings this year has made significant improvement in man coverage, and making plays on the football. He leads the league in interceptions with four.
Charles Tillman worried some Bears fans with his play in the preseason, but he’s still performing a pretty good level. D.J. Moore struggle a little in the previous game against the Dallas Cowboys, but overall has done a decent job as the team’s nickel back.
The Bears haven’t needed to rely on veteran Kelvin Hayden with the exception of week one, where he prove that the Bears have great depth at the CB position.
The Bears might have found their most effective safety duo in Major Wright and Chris Conte.
In 10 starts together, opposing quarterbacks have completed 59.8 percent of their passes for 263.2 yards per game, with eight touchdowns and 19 interceptions, good for a 65.9 cumulative passer rating.
Both Wright and Conte look more comfortable in the system, allowing their instincts to put them in position to make plays on the football and prevent big plays. Craig Steltz hasn’t seen much action, but he’s a reliable back-up if either one of the safeties go down at some point this season.