Can a Veteran Defense Make 2021 a Playoff Season?

| June 18th, 2021

Justin Fields.

Justin Fields.

Justin Fields.

There, it’s out of my system. We can move on.

2021 is very unlikely to be a championship-caliber campaign for the Chicago Bears. Andy Dalton doesn’t win Super Bowls. Rookie quarterbacks don’t either. But that doesn’t mean the whole of Chicago needs to resign themselves to a middling, meaningless 17 games of football. Because while all the excitement around this franchise seems centered on one side of the ball – and more specifically one position – the Bears are still paying an awful lot of men and awful lot of money, to stop the other team from scoring.

So what if Khalil Mack does more than generate pressures and receive analytical praise? What if he actually buries a dozen quarterbacks this season?

What if Robert Quinn looks like the Robert Quinn that played in the NFL for all those years previous to landing at O’Hare and trying his first Portillo’s hot dog?

What if adding Eddie Goldman back into the mix does what it should: devours opposing internal linemen, freeing Roquan and Trevathan to shut down rushing attacks?

What if Eddie Jackson doesn’t get multiple pick sixes called back for penalties this season?

What if Akiem Hicks has one more year in those legs?

What if Sean Desai is the next great defensive coordinator for an organization that’s had a bunch of them?

One might read that list of questions and think, “Well that’s a lot of what ifs, isn’t it?” And maybe it is. But all of these individuals have set precedents for success. They have all done the things in the league they are being paid to do in 2021. It’s not unfair to ask them to be the players they are being paid to be.

In truth, it’ll all come down to the front.

The Bears are entering the season with some serious roster deficiencies at the back end; the absence of Kyle Fuller leaving them a Jaylon Johnson injury away from fielding one of the weaker collections of corners in the league. (And Johnson being injured is not uncommon in his football life.) If this defense is going to be good enough to win games, it is going to require the pass rush to keep pressure on opposing quarterbacks and off the likes of DHC, Teez Tabor, Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley…etc.

Mack is nearly $15 million against the cap.

Quinn is nearly $15 million against the cap.

Hicks $12 million against the cap.

The three men combined for 14.5 sacks a season ago. Pressures schmessures. Folks who think sacks are overrated don’t understand the game of football. Quarterbacks dislike pressure. Quarterbacks fear getting planted into the ground. You want to force a quarterback into making bad decision? Cause him pain. If that’s vulgar, so be it. This is football. Grow up.

If those sack numbers are repeated in 2021, the Bears are going to find themselves needing 28-30 points to win every week and they’re not capable of doing that consistently. But if those three can find their previous form, and dominate on Sundays, the Bears can find themselves competing in January no matter who is under center for them.

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