Dannehy: Too Early to Draw Conclusions about Flus, Bears Defense

| November 30th, 2022

While concerns about how terrible the Chicago Bears defense is right now might be warranted, there’s no real way of knowing if it will be a long term problem.

Since the trades of Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, the Bears have struggled to get stops. Their defense has gone from a top-15 unit to, very likely, the worst in the entire league. There is certainly a lack of talent, but a significantly greater concern is that it doesn’t appear the unit is getting any better.

How many times must we see the entire team bite hard on a simple play action fake? That should be fixed by now. How are their defensive ends still not able to contain? (Didn’t Daniel Jones teach them anything?) It’s hard to say if the team lacks coaching or if the players are incapable of taking the coaching.

There are examples of defensive coaches who struggled early and turned it around and there are others who simply never were able to correct the issues. The Bears could’ve looked across the sideline for an example of the former last week as Robert Saleh had the worst defense in the league in 2021 and the Jets are a top five unit in 2022. Or, it could be like Brandon Staley who was given a pass for his 29th-ranked scoring defense in 2021 and, after an infusion of talent, still has the 29th-ranked scoring defense in 2022.

There really is no way to tell at this point.

One reason for optimism is that the Bears were good earlier this season and still lacked talent. Though even that comes with the caveat that they were really only good in the second half of games; possibly a sign that defensive coordinator Alan Williams struggled with game planning. While this is Eberflus’ first season as a head coach, it’s Williams’ third as a DC. The Vikings had the worst unit in the league under his watch in 2013, which is really saying something because that was the first year in which Mel Tucker was with the Bears.

The one thing that is certain, however, is that if Eberflus is going to be a success with the Bears, he is going to have to fix his defense. We should know by the end of 2023.

Sometimes Teams Shouldn’t Trade Down

Trade down! That’s what many fans angrily shout whenever the topic of how the Bears should use their draft picks comes up, but it really isn’t that simple.

As it stands right now, it’s hard to envision a world in which the Bears don’t have a top-three pick. They currently sit second, which could have a quarterback-hungry team offering a king’s ransom, but there is more to consider.

For starters, an elite pass rusher is likely to be in play for the Bears should they pick in the top-three. Alabama’s Will Anderson is considered to be a better prospect than either of the Bosa brothers or Chase Young and considerably better than Aidan Hutchinson, Bradley Chubb or any other pass rusher who has gone high in the draft outside of Myles Garrett. Anderson has 34.5 career sacks, more than any other edge player taken in the top five over the past decade. He also has nearly 60 tackles for loss; the only top-five edge player with more is Khalil Mack, but Mack played four full seasons against lesser competition and Anderson is just finishing his third in the SEC.

It’s hard to see a scenario in which the Bears could justify passing on a prosect of Anderson’s caliber.

Jones A Bright Spot

Sometimes, it’s best when things don’t work out.

Ryan Poles was saved from perhaps his biggest mistake when Larry Ogunjobi failed his physical. Poles was set to make Ogunjobi wealthy despite the fact that he was nearing 30 and coming off of a major injury. When the deal that was going to average $13.5 million per year fell through, the Bears signed Justin Jones for $12 million total over two years.

While Jones struggles at the point of attack against the run, he has quietly put together a strong season with 36 tackles – eight for loss – and two sacks. Ogunjobi signed with Pittsburgh and has just half of a sack and two tackles for loss. Jones has played more snaps — 511-406 — but is also two full years younger.

If there is one player in the front seven who the Bears could be comfortable moving forward with, it’s Jones.

Cut The Cheese

The Chicago Bears are once again going to get torched by the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

It doesn’t really matter who it is. The defense the Bears play on every down is similar to what the Eagles were playing with a two-touchdown lead late in the fourth quarter. It isn’t hard to see a scenario in which Christian Watson repeats his long touchdown in the fourth quarter of the SNF game simply because we just saw the Bears give up a similar score against the Jets.

We’re pretty sure the Bears are going to lose this game and it’s going to be another frustrating Sunday. If Justin Fields doesn’t play, it’ll be lopsided. If he does, it’s hard to see a scenario in which the Packers allow him to run all over them like Jalen Hurts did.

That said, we should all take a second to enjoy that while the Packers are likely to win on Sunday, their 2022 season is an absolute failure. While the Bears are rebuilding and, apparently, have the most difficult position in sports figured out, the Packers went into this season going all-in to win a Super Bowl. Green Bay will need to win out to have any chance of making the playoffs. How sweet would it be if the Bears were the team that ended any chance the Packers had at making the playoffs?

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