Dannehy: Eberflus Defense Can Be Productive Without Pressure

| June 15th, 2023

Much of the current discussion regarding the 2023 Chicago Bears has been about the need to add another pass rusher. While that certainly would be nice, Eberflus has already shown us he doesn’t need a great pass rush to have a productive defense. Do the Bears certainly need to get after the quarterback better than they did in 2022, when they managed an abysmal 20 sacks and pressured quarterbacks on just 15.9 percent of drop backs, ranking 32nd and 31st in the league? Of course. But the truth is, Eberflus never had a great pass rush in Indianapolis and still managed to produce quality defenses every year.

In his four seasons as the Colts defensive coordinator, the team never ranked better than 18th in pressure percentage (per Pro Football Reference) or 12th in sacks and were never worse than 18th in scoring defense or 16th in yardage. The key to Eberflus’ defense is takeaways, something he has managed to do annually despite not getting pressure.

The Colts were top ten in takeaways every year Eberflus called their defense. In his final season in Indianapolis, they were second in takeaways, despite ranking 31st in pressure percentage and 25th in sacks. Even last year, the Bears did a good job taking the ball away, finishing 14th in the league, despite their inability to breath on opposing quarterbacks.

One key will be the run defense. Eberflus had top ten defenses in terms of rushing yards allowed every year he was in Indianapolis, and they were in the top ten in rushing DVOA three out of four years. The Bears were last in rushing DVOA last year and second-to-last in rushing yards allowed.

Perhaps that’s why we saw more of an emphasis on interior defenders. While Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens may need time to develop pass rush moves, they should be able to step in and stop the run as rookies. The team also added Andrew Billings to the mix. The defensive end they did invest in was 280-pound Demarcus Walker. It isn’t hard to see how the team could move up into the top ten against the run.

If they manage to improve their run defense, the Bears should be productive defensively. The secondary will still be asked to cover for a long time, but the Bears have invested in the back end, so that should not be a major concern. The pass rush options are dwindling, but the Bears are in a unique position with a coach who has proven over time that he doesn’t necessarily need a great pass rush to have a good defense.

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