Some defenses seem to last forever, the 70s Steelers, 21st Century Ravens, and 80s Bears all left a lasting imprint in our minds. While each had their share of notable seasons, their impact lasted much longer. After the great season that another Bears defense (2018) just had, many are foreshadowing their downfall. The main reasons for this negative foreshadowing have been their key losses, notably DC Vic Fangio, S Adrian Amos, and CB Bryce Callahan. While the losses may look bad on paper, the Bears defense is here to stay.
To preface, almost no defense doesn’t decline at least a little bit after a year on top. It’s very likely that the Bears defense declines at least a minuscule amount, however, this defense is still one of the league’s best and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they end up atop the NFL. As previously mentioned, the Bears defense lost some crucial talent in the 2019 offseason. SS Adrian Amos had been a star of their league-best lineup and CB Bryce Callahan proved to play an integral role as well. These two departures have been a large reason for the defense being written off and at first glance it made sense….Until you notice the two signings that have been used as replacements to these two. To fill in the hole at the SS position is Haha Clinton-Dix. In just 5 seasons, Clinton-Dix was able to record 14 interceptions, including 5 in his 2016 Pro Bowl season. He’s versatile just like Amos and should be able to slide right in. As a replacement to the slot corner position, Buster Skrine signed with the Bears this offseason. Skrine is extremely versatile and physical, which is exactly what Callahan was during his tenure in Chicago. Both pickups absolutely fill in the talent and holes left by the departures. As for the rest of the defense that led the NFL in total points allowed, it remains largely intact. The edge rush that was 3rd in the NFL in sacks is still there, led by perennial DPOY candidate Khalil Mack, DT standout Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, and NT Eddie Goldman. The league leading rushing defense that was led by the many already mentioned as well as Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan is all still there as well. As for the standout secondary, NFL FS superstar Eddie Jackson, NFL interception leader Kyle Fuller, and CB Prince Amukamara are all still there, not to mention the new pickups. Many of these players mentioned such as Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson are also still very young, and have room to improve. Top to bottom, one could have a very, very strong case that this is the most talented defense on paper…And this is without even mentioning the coaching.
Yes, for starters, DC genius Vic Fangio was lost to the Broncos, but let’s not ignore his replacement in the newly acquired Chuck Pagano. When we think of Chuck Pagano nowadays the image of a mediocre Colts head coach comes to our mind. This image of Pagano, who should be thought of more for his heroic defensive coach/coordinator days with elite defenses, is unjust. In fact, he was the DC of the 2011 Ravens who posted arguably the league’s best defense and used that defense to fuel a 12-4 record. Furthermore, that Ravens defense fit a similar blueprint to the Bears one today, from the personnel to the players. To begin with, both teams run a 3-4 defense and heavily rely on the strengths of some players and versatility to build upon the strengths of others. For personnel, Pagano is comfortable in a secondary based off of its versatility and, one might say, superstardom. Player by player, Eddie Jackson’s game is remarkably similar to Ed Reed’s, with both being built on their jaw-dropping range and knack for finding the ball. Kyle Fuller’s playstyle of playing off of his man and securing the interception is uncanny to that of CB Lardarius Webb. CB Buster Skrine plays physical and up close much like CB Jimmy Smith did on the Ravens that year. All of this without even mentioning the hard-hitting and versatile strong safeties in Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Bernard Pollard. The list goes on and on with other notable similarities being in players such as Bears CB Prince Amukamara and former Ravens CB Cary Williams. All of this mention of secondary without even mentioning how great of an up-front both teams have at their disposal, each being headlined by a great run defense with players such as Bears DT Akiem Hicks and MLB Roquan Smith along with Ravens DT Haloti Ngata and MLB Ray Lewis. The edges are also star-studded, with players like Bears OLB Khalil Mack and Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs. As is evident, the old Ravens team Pagano successfully coached is very, very similar to the Bears one this year. Although, the most underrated aspect of Pagano is how the Ravens defense got better when he went from secondary coach to DC, then fell off once he left . Yes, while the Ravens talent pool got better from 2010 to 2011, the rise from the 10th ranked defense by points allowed to the 3rd ranked defense in Yards Allowed Per Game (NFL.com) must be heavily credited to Chuck Pagano, although total points allowed stayed roughly the same. Then, after Pagano left the defense fell to 17th YAPG and fell to 12th in total points allowed, which was a big drop off from 3rd. While one may point to Lewis only playing six games, Lewis had only played twelve the season prior and by that point was up there in age. While yes, Fangio has served to be one of the best defensive coordinators the NFL has seen in recent years, Pagano seemingly feels like the perfect replacement to continue and lead this defense.
Defenses evolve, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Dynasties are built off the better, laughingstocks out the worst. While the Bears defense is ,of course, no laughingstock, there has been doubt nonetheless. However, with all of the major losses came a major replacement. This defense still looks very similar in talent and fit to last year’s league-best, and their young talent will only get better and better. For these reasons, this Bears defense is here to stay.