by Carlos Nazario,
Hello sports fans, I have for you the second of a 3-part “Meet your Bears” series. Today we will be introducing the Bears’ defense.
Over the history of the franchise, the defense has been a staple of Bears teams. The “Monsters of the Midway” was a moniker given to describe the ferocious Bears defense. They have always tried to have just enough offense and depend on that defense to get wins.
In 2010, the year the Bears reached the NFL Conference Championship game, their defense ranked 4th and allowed an average of 16.8 pts/game. Last year, the defense ranked 17th and allowed an average of 21.3 pts/game.
One of the reasons for this drastic drop in the defense was the lack of a pass rush. Opposing quarterbacks were able to stand in the pocket and find their open man.
To change this, the Bears used their 1st round pick on DE Shea McClellin out of Boise St. He is a quick, athletic pass rusher who will be asked to take some pressure off of Julius Peppers, who was constantly double-teamed last season.
So far during the preseason, McClellin has come as advertised. He has a high energy motor, and has gotten a couple of sacks and has been in the backfield on a consistent basis. He will start out behind Israel Idonije, but with his size and athleticism, he could also help out at LB.
Another concern for the Bears is their age. Key personnel are getting up in age and the concern is that as the season progresses they will tire out. To help in that department, the Bears, in addition to drafting McClellin, also drafted S Brandon Hardin and CBs Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy. They also signed LBs Geno Hayes and Blake Costanzo, and CB Kelvin Hayden.
Some of these guys will not be starters, but they have the talent to give the starters a good rest and have them in good shape late in games, and late in the season. The Bears improved offense will also help. They were among the leaders in 3 and outs, and that puts a great deal of pressure on the defense. By improving their third down conversions, the offense helps keep the defense on the bench, getting very important rest.
Second year DT Stephen Paea, drafted in the 2nd round, had his season derailed last year due to an injury. He only played in 7 games, recording 14 tackles and 2 sacks. He is looking to have a bounce back season. He adds to the Bears’ youth movement.
We cannot forget about the defense’s stalwarts. Peppers is looking to continue his strong career. Seeing a great deal more double teams, his number of tackles went down, but his sacks actually went up. He ended the season as a Pro Bowl alternate. With help from the other ends and time off from the offense, he should have another monster season.
Pro Bowl OLB Lance Briggs had his contract extended so he is happy. He had another great season, earning a Pro Bowl berth for the 7th straight season. He had 100 tackles and 1 INT last season, and will try to continue his stellar play.
CB Charles Tillman finally made the Pro Bowl last season. He is 4th on the all-time Bears list with 27 career INTs. Entering his 10th season, he is as quick and athletic now as he has ever been.
The face of the franchise for years, the captain, the leader and the soul of the Bears, MLB Brian Urlacher is the Bears’ all-time leader in tackles. He went to the Pro Bowl again last season, his 8th. This is where fans may have a concern.
On what was one of the final plays of the season, Urlacher made a stop that helped the Bears win a game and end their 5 game losing streak. What also happened was that Urlacher sprained the MCL and PCL in his knee. He missed the Offseason Training Activities (OTA) and has missed most of camp. Recently, it was announced that he had a scope to that knee because of swelling and pain. He has not played in any preseason games and is questionable to play any of the remaining games. He says he will be ready for the season opener on Sept 9th, but nothing is set just yet.
Things may be completely different without Urlacher manning the middle. He missed almost the entire 2004 season, and the defense took a hit. The Bears ended 7-9 that season, and the defense was getting run up the middle as if no one was there.
One good sign that Urlacher is close to coming back is that his replacement, Nick Roach, played some OLB, his normal position, during last Saturday’s game against the Washington Redskins. Bears fans are hoping that Urlacher will be ready sooner than later. They do not want to see a repeat of last season’s injury bug.
The fans are ready to celebrate a title, and this defense wants to lead the way to it. We will see how that works out.