We are only days away from the start of the 2019 NFL season Bears fans, and our number one, monstrous defense is ready to get down to business. These off-season improvements are typically very generic in nature, right? It’s a simple formula when you break it down: scoring points plus stopping your opponent from scoring points equals a victory. The usual question is how and why? I think I have that one figured out when it comes to our beloved Chicago Bears heading into the 2019 season and it all starts with Vic Fangio.
Now I know what you’re thinking, Vic Fangio isn’t even a part of the organization anymore. He left to take on the head coaching duties in Denver, but what he left behind was one of the best defenses the NFL has seen in many years and he did it with a lot of question marks on the roster. Granted, the addition of Khalil Mack was a gigantic difference-maker, (given the fact that his presence made everyone on that side of the ball much better) but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Fangio was the glue holding the defense together. Fangio also had the keen ability to make the right call, most of the time. When the defensive coordinator is calling the right plays and has that amount of talent on the defensive line, it leads to success throughout a defensive structure.
In 2018, the Bears defense ranked first in almost every statistical category, but it’s worth noting that they led in rushing yards allowed, rushing touchdowns allowed, net yards gained per pass attempt, and interceptions. Having a rock-solid defensive line stopping the run and hurdling towards the quarterback allows the cornerbacks and safeties to make the plays on the ball. Essentially, the job in the secondary is much easier to do when opposing quarterbacks have to make quick decisions that often lead to mistakes or poor timing. There isn’t a whole lot for this defense to improve upon. They were scary to play against last season, but there is one very critical area where they can improve and given the strength of their schedule, this is a must-do.
In 2018, the Bears defense was ranked eighth overall in passing touchdowns allowed. This is still a great top ten area to fall in. However, their schedule last year didn’t have them seeing the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers. They managed to take down Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, and Aaron Rodgers though and that’s a great start. This year will be different and the real test of the success of this defensive squad is going to be allowing touchdowns through the air. The question becomes, how do they do this? Enter: new Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
In 2011, Chuck became the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens after spending the previous three seasons as the Ravens’ secondary coach. Chuck’s defense led the league in passing touchdowns allowed, won their division and made it to the AFC Championship game. In my opinion, this is the key to winning these tough games in 2019. Pagano has a beautifully built foundation in this defensive core, thanks to Vic Fangio and Ryan Pace, and he can improve upon it tremendously with his experience in Baltimore.
The new pieces the Bears acquired are going to fit right in. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a great addition and a huge upgrade from Adrian Amos. Plus, he’s close friends with Eddie Jackson. Having played together at Alabama, their relationship is only going to grow stronger and it bodes very well for this secondary. I think they will work well together, but I want to see consistency and Jackson to pick up right where he left off last season. They have to play ferocious in every game and not give the future opponents any type of cue in film to pick up on.
This is also a big year for Roquan Smith. I loved him coming out of college last year and thought it was a great pick by Ryan Pace. Last season, Smith had 89 solo tackles and five sacks. I think he could break out and have a huge year. I want to see him take the ball away some more or, at the very least, defend more than five passes. I know it’s only preseason, but I would love to see more of this:
Lastly, I’d like to see more out of Leonard Floyd. 34 solo tackles, one fumble recovery, four sacks and one goofy pick-six only a year ago can be improved upon immensely.
This is a big test for Floyd this year and it’s quite simple, the production has to increase. He has such great help with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks on the same line, so I fully understand that the production will be spread out, but he has to make the chances he gets worthwhile. That may not be a measurable statistic that we can look at, but we’ll for sure notice it while watching the games this year.
In conclusion, I believe this team has what it takes to go all the way and win a championship this season. It is in no way going to be easy since they have the toughest schedule in the entire league, but I think it’s feasible. Hiring Chuck Pagano as the new defensive coordinator is a great addition that can perfectly improve the only palpable flaw in a defense that we expect to continue its greatness.
Featured Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire