These days, the “Monsters” of the Midway aren’t looking so scary. Yes, the Chicago Bears‘ defense is still one of the most opportunistic in the league, but their is one major flaw that will cost them big against every good team they face this year.
The defensive line play has been horrendous. The pass rush has been almost nonexistent, and their run defense has been far from what it once was, and the problem lies within the front four. The back seven have been fine — great, even. But with a lack of penetration up front, this defense is on its way to falling apart.
Julius Peppers has struggled in every game, and it’s noticeable. I can’t quite point to what’s the issue with him, but since he’s not been on the injury report, I have to assume age is just catching up with him. I mean, it was going to happen eventually, but I’m sure everyone was hoping it wouldn’t be for another year or two, especially with how good the rest of the team seems to be.
On the other side, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin haven’t been getting it done, either. In fact, I would argue rookie seventh-round pick David Bass has been more impressive in limited action the past two games than either of those guys — which is not good considering one of them was the Bears’ first-round pick only a year ago, and the other a fourth rounder from 2010.
As for the interior of the line, their issues have been well documented. Henry Melton and Nate Collins each have torn ACLs and are done for the year. Their best two defensive tackles are gone, and you can tell already how much they miss them. In the past three weeks, Reggie Bush and Brandon Jacobs — of all people — have torched them in the ground game, and their pass rush up the middle has been nowhere.
They don’t even have Stephen Paea at the moment, who’s missed the last two games with a foot injury. That’s left the Bears with Landon Cohen and Zach Minter as their only true DTs, which has forced Wootton or Peppers to play inside more, and I’ve already noted how ineffective they’ve been so far this season.
Take last night’s game against the New York Giants for example. Against one of the least impressive offensive lines in the league in 2013, they mustered one sack on Eli Manning (which was accomplished on a Lance Briggs blitz); and for the vast majority of the game, he had all day to throw the ball. Now, the fact that he and the rest of the Giants are playing so poorly led to him still throwing three INTs, but the Bears could have easily lost that game. If that had happened, it would’ve been entirely on the defense and their atrocious line play, because the offense scored more than enough and was moving the ball very well all game.
To be completely honest with you, I don’t know what the remedy is for this problem at the moment. I know you can’t justify sitting Peppers with his track record and $16 million salary, and it’s tough to completely give up on the Wootton-McClellin combo just yet. But if they don’t improve their play now, the Bears are going to lose against every somewhat talented offensive group they face, and definitely against the Green Bay Packers — whom they still have to play twice.
Factor in that they have only one solid defensive tackle, and he’s still hurt (though will likely be back for their next game), and there’s really no bright side to the situation. I’ve gone through some research on the best interior guys left on the market, but who knows if they can be the quick fix to keep them in the playoff picture?
The offense looks better than it has in years. The back seven of the defense is playing very well, forcing turnovers and making big plays. Even the special teams has been at least adequate, if not solid overall, as well. Their is just one fatal flaw, and it really could be their undoing in a season with high aspirations.
If something isn’t changed soon for the better, Chicago fans could be in for another disappointing season.