By Carlos Nazario
Earlier we took a look at the Bears offense. Now we will look at their defense.
The Bears are looking to continue the success its defense has had not only last year, but also over the years. When you talk Bears football, the first thing that comes to mind is defense. Last season, they were in the top 10 in points allowed (4 th ), yards (9 th ), touchdowns allowed (2 nd ), interceptions (5 th ), and rushing yards allowed (2 nd ). They did rank only 20 th in passing yards allowed, but as you can see, it was a “bend but don’t break” kind of defense.
Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije both return as the ends. Peppers showed that the money the Bears spent on him last season (6 years $91.5 million) by having a Pro Bowl season. His sacks went down, but only as a result of being double-teamed constantly. That eventually opened up opportunities for players like linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. It’s no surprise that those three players were Pro Bowlers, and should wreak havoc once again.
The Bears released tackle Tommie Harris after a rough 2010 season, so Anthony Adams moves up to take his spot. Newcomer Amobi Okoye figures to get a good look for the starting spot as well. Okoye was the 10 th overall pick of the Houston Texans in the 2007 draft, but has had 4 subpar seasons. The interesting thing about him, however, is that he entered the draft as a 19 year old so he is entering this season as a 24 year old. Perhaps he just needed some maturing so his career could take off. He certainly shined in the preseason opener with his 2 sacks. The line figures to put more pressure on quarterbacks this season so the defense’s pass stats could hit the top 10 as well.
Joining Urlacher and Briggs at linebacker is Nick Roach. Urlacher came back strong last season after missing all but one game the previous season with an injury. He led the team with 97 tackles and went to his 7 th Pro Bowl. Briggs went to his 6 th Pro Bowl last season and was second on the team with 75 tackles, and with hard hitters Roach and Urlacher the linebacker corps figures to separate many receivers from the ball.
Speaking of hard hitting, Chris Harris and Major Wright will cover the safety positions. Harris is moving from free safety where he had 5 interceptions last season to strong safety, where he will get a chance to get more of those Doug Plank-type hits. Ironically, Harris has the same jersey number Plank had with the Bears. Major Wright was known as one of the hardest hitters in the history of Florida football. He spent his rookie season learning the ins and outs of the NFL and this season has earned a starting spot.
At cornerback, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are the starters. Jennings will get a fight for the starting spot from Zachary Bowman and DJ Moore. Tillman had 5 interceptions and four forced fumbles to go with 72 tackles last season. He is a ball hawk who is always looking to strip the ball from the carrier.
With the Bears’ improvement at the defensive line, they should improve their pass defense. Against the run, look for them to continue their stifling ways. The defense will be the strong point of the team, and at times they will need to shut down the other team’s offense to make up for their own team’s lackluster offense. If the offense can give the defense a rest once in awhile, look for them to return to playoff success.