ATM: 5 Reasons To Think Defense Will Still Be Great in ’19

| June 11th, 2019

All offseason we’ve heard about how the Chicago Bears defense is going to drop off in 2019. But there are plenty of reasons to think that won’t happen. Here are five.

#5. Great Defenses Tend to Stay at Least Really Good

Even if there is a drop off, it isn’t likely to be enough to thwart the Bears season.

Look back to 2012 and you’ll find Seattle ranking in the top five in DVOA for five consecutive seasons, including two first-place finishes, despite having three different defensive coordinators. They led the league in scoring defense four straight years before finishing third in 2016.

Then there’s Denver, which went from fourth in 2014 to first in 2015 and 2016 with two different defensive coordinators.

You know what both of those defenses had in common with the 2018/19 Bears? Really good players. If something were to happen where the Bears wouldn’t have really good players, maybe there would be a drop off, but there’s no reason to think that will be the case.

#4. They Might Have More Talent

My favorite tidbit that came from The Bears 100 celebration was the quotes of Josh Lucas, the team’s director of player personnel. Specifically, it was what Lucas said about new safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in comparison with the guy he replaced. From Mark Potash of the Sun-Times:

“The way Ha Ha fell to us was just complete icing on the cake,” Lucas said. “For Ha Ha to want to be a part of us, and sign the deal he signed … and we’re not saying this now because he’s here and Amos is in Green Bay. We have consistently graded Ha Ha as a better player than Amos for four years. For that to happen really solidified the pro side of it.”

There certainly is also reason to believe the team feels it upgraded with Buster Skrine over Bryce Callahan, especially considering the time Callahan tends to miss.

(And don’t think it’s just the Bears who don’t think Amos is all that great. The Broncos, now headed by former Bears Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell, chose to sign Kareem Jackson to play safety instead of Amos.)

#3. Chuck Has a Strong Rep

Using the failures of the Indianapolis Colts against Chuck Pagano is like using Wade Phillips’ multiple head-coaching failures against him. Some guys are just meant to coach defense and Pagano is one of them. This will be just Pagano’s second season as a defensive coordinator, but since the start of 2000, he has as many seasons coordinating the league’s top DVOA defense as Vic Fangio does.

I’m not going to say Pagano is better than Fangio, but it isn’t something we should rule out either. It wasn’t that long ago that the Bears had one of the worst defensive DVOAs in the league under Fangio.

#2. They Might Be Better

This isn’t the same thing as having more talent, it’s more about players living up to their talent.

  • The big player to watch here is Roquan Smith. As a rookie who missed almost all of camp, Smith got off to a slow start, but he’s been in the league a year now and there’s reason to think he’ll have a huge season. It isn’t just Smith, though.
  • Leonard Floyd had his worst year as a pro last year. That should change.
  • Bilal Nichols should be better.
  • Roy Robertson-Harris is in a contract year and Clinton-Dix is in a prove-it year.
  • Other young players who didn’t see much action last year like Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Kevin Toliver II should be more able to step in, should they need to be called on.
  • Then, of course, there’s Khalil Mack. One of the best players in the league is going through offseason activities with the team for the first time.

#1. They’ll Have a Better Offense

For as much as people have talked and written about the defensive regression they’re expecting from the Bears, almost everybody has ignored how much better the offense should be.

The Bears were just 23rd in plays per drive and 22nd in yards per drive — 21st in overall yardage. They did manage to hold onto the ball, finishing eighth in time of possession, but there’s certainly reason to think they’ll do more with it when they have it.

There are a lot of storylines to be written about with the Bears offense, none more significant than it being Mitch Trubisky’s second season. And I think it’s worth noting that the Bears coaches aren’t doing anything to temper expectations.

They should also be able to run the ball more efficiently in 2019, which will help keep their defense off the field and shorten games. If there was one major weakness with the 2018 Bears, it was in the fourth quarter when they seemed to tire. A better offense should prevent that from happening.

Imagine the 2018 Bears defense being capable of consistently playing well for all four quarters. It isn’t that hard to see them being even better in 2019, is it?

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