It isn’t a coincidence that the teams playing in the Super Bowl are among the best at getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and keeping their quarterbacks clean.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense put up video game numbers, finishing with 70 sacks during the regular season, taking quarterbacks down on 11.2 percent of their drop backs, according to Pro-Football-Reference. The Eagles had the most sacks in a season since the 1987 Bears (also 70). The 1984 Bears hold the single season record with 72 and the 1989 Minnesota Vikings totaled 71. Four Philadelphia defensive linemen had more than 10 sacks, led by 2022 free agent addition Haason Reddick’s 16.
Who was second in the league in sacks? The Kansas City Chiefs, 55, a total that would typically lead the league. The Chiefs also had a dominant individual as defensive tackle Chris Jones managed 15.5 sacks. The rest of their pressure was spread out across the defensive roster.
But the teams also kept their quarterbacks relatively clean.
The Eagles were eighth in the league in pressure percentage allowed at 17.7%, while the Chiefs were 16th at 19.4%. It must be noted, however, that both teams have quarterbacks who hold onto the ball. Kansas City tied for the league-high with 2.6 seconds in the pocket, while Philly came in at 2.4.
The Bears have a lot of work to do.
When it comes to the pass rush, that has been well-discussed. The Bears were second-to-last in the league, pressuring quarterbacks only15.9% of the time and dead last, by a considerable margin, when it comes to knocking them down (4.2%). Chicago, of course, was last with an anemic 20 sacks.
Even if the Bears were to sign multiple defensive linemen in free agency, it shouldn’t prevent them from drafting one with a high pick.
The argument about Will Anderson Jr. and Jalen Carter probably doesn’t matter, but the Bears would be wise to make sure they get at least one. While there are other intriguing prospects in this draft, the consensus is that there are two true blue-chip players.
As for protecting Fields moving forward, Chicago quarterbacks also held onto the ball for 2.6 seconds in the pocket, but were pressured 25.4% of the time, the fifth-highest rate in the league. While the chicken-or-the-egg conversation regarding sacks and quarterback responsibility is unproductively fun, Trevor Siemian averaged 1.5 seconds in the pocket – which would’ve been the lowest in the league by a wide margin – but was still pressured on more than 20% of his drop backs.
The Bears should have enough resources to build their offensive line.
- Releasing Cody Whitehair could increase the amount of money the team has and he could be replaced with, perhaps Dalton Risner from Denver or Nate Davis from Tennessee – two players who have played in a similar scheme.
- Assuming the plan is to stick with Braxton Jones at left tackle, the Bears should invest in a right tackle — Kaleb McGary from Atlanta, perhaps?
- Should the Bears trade into the back half of the top 10, they could be looking at Ohio State’s Paris Johnson — or whoever it is they deem to be the best offensive tackle in the draft.
The Bears have a general manager and assistant general manager who both were offensive linemen in college and a coach who was a linebacker. They should know the importance of play at the line of scrimmage as well as anybody. It’s a bit confusing and surprising that the Bears were probably the worst team in the league at the line of scrimmage in their first year, but there’s no reason why they can’t make a drastic improvement – as both of the Super Bowl teams did.