Many changes have occurred for the Chicago Bears over the past seven months, and a lot of the focus has been on the offense with new pickups and, of course, new offensive-minded coach, Marc Trestman. But what about their defense?
The vaunted Chicago Bears’ defense, one of the best last season, has had pretty significant alterations from year’s past. The two most impactful have to be the departure of Brian Urlacher, their face of the franchise for the past decade-plus, and eight-year head coach Lovie Smith, who’s firing marked the end of the famous Tampa 2 — sort of — in Chicago.
Despite these losses, GM Phil Emery has done (what I consider) a masterful job at retooling and hiring new pieces to continue their success on that side of the ball.
The first thing the organization needed to do was find a new defensive coordinator. Rightly, they brought in someone who’s system would keep the 4-3 scheme. However, it’s not quite Smith and Rod Marinelli‘s cover-two, but it is similar. New DC Mel Tucker comes in with an attitude that should really benefit the personnel on the team.
‘‘Mel Tucker came in and he learned our system and really allows us to play fast like we did last year because we don’t have to learn a new system and think a lot,’’ free safety Chris Conte said according to the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘We can just transition right into getting back to football and getting back to the basics and focus on playing fast and going after the ball like we do best.’’
Based on what Conte explained here, and in some other quotes, is that Tucker has come in and is going to use the same terminology and a rather similar scheme overall. Trestman, however, said that he will put his own spin on things and we could see some differences in the upcoming year. Of course, one thing that is still being preached: turnovers. Which is excellent news, especially because of the success in that department during Smith’s tenure as they led the league.
Now, the trickier fix was that of replacing Urlacher. My take on the situation? Many fans and members of the media overreacted.
Last year, ‘Lach only played in 12 of the 16 games. Though he showed improvement from the beginning of the season where he was still recovering from his knee injury the prior year, it was apparent that the then 34-year-old had lost a step. His season high for tackles was only eight, a very low number for him. He had zero sacks and only one interception, which he returned very slowly (seriously, watch it here, it is nowhere near his former standard) for a touchdown.
Essentially, Urlacher was decent last year, but he wasn’t making the impact that he had before. One thing that I do concede is that his leadership and presence on and off the field was important to the team, but the Bears don’t really need to worry much about it, if at all, because of all the veterans on the squad such as Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman.
He, strong-side linebacker Nick Roach and defensive end Israel Idonije were the only starters that needed to be replaced heading into 2013. Considering none of them were exactly dominant forces on a squad that led the league in turnovers, I think they’re going to be fine.
Two very underrated moves were picking up veteran linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson to start for at least this season. In fact, one could easily make the argument that these two could end up being more effective this upcoming season than ‘Lach and Roach were last year.
Williams lost favor with the Denver Broncos last season after a nine-game suspension and was released this offseason. However, before last year, Williams was one of the best at inside linebacker for three-straight years in which he racked up over 300 tackles, 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
Anderson has been a solid starter for the Carolina Panthers the past four years, especially in 2010 and 2011 where he had five sacks, two forced fumbles, three interceptions and 130-plus tackles each year.
As for Idonije’s replacement, Corey Wootten will likely start with Shea McClellin spelling both him and Peppers in a rotation each game, which should be fine as we saw what a healthy Wootten can do last year. And hopefully McClellin takes another step and proves that he was worth a first-round pick in last year’s draft.
The defense certainly is another year older, and that’s an important factor with guys like Briggs, Peppers and Tillman, but there’s no indication that they’re slowing down in 2013.
All things considered, I’d say that side of the ball should be just fine, if not great once again. Couple that with hopefully a much improved offense, and suddenly the Bears may be looking at the playoffs and much more.
Feel free to comment on how you think the Bears’ defense will fare this year below.