The following is part of a series of position-by-position breakdowns at the halftime point of the 2014 season.
This is a tale of two units.
At defensive tackle the Bears have a pair of excellent starters. If Jay Ratliff did not miss time with a concussion who knows how productive a campaign he could be enjoying. But his performance in the first half against the Miami Dolphins was one of the most dominant I’ve seen by a defensive tackle in years. Stephen Paea has endured (and I’m sure it’s pained him) endless criticism on this page alone over the duration of his career but this year he’s been week-in and week-out the Bears most reliable and impacting defensive lineman.
It also seems Phil Emery found two solid tackles in the draft. Both Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, when they’ve gotten on the field, have jumped off the screen and made plays. Are they going to be every down starters in the years to come? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Evidence the defensive tackles have been the Bears most improved unit? A year ago the Bears ranked 32nd in the league against the run allowing 161.4 yards per game. This year they are ranked 13th, allowing only 110.1 per. That is a massive turnaround and it sure can’t be credited to what’s happening behind them.
What do you do with the Bears defensive ends through eight games?
Jared Allen has yet to do, well, anything and now is pursuing a half-step in the bye week. (He also said he’ll be pursuing a Blu-ray of Cop and a Half starring Burt Reynolds.) Lamarr Houston led the team in pass disruptions but disrupting a pass is not the same as stopping a pass from taking place and Houston’s bust of a first eight games was punctuated by his irritating, injury-inducing sack celebration in a massive blowout at Foxboro.
Willie Young has been excellent, the best defensive bargain in the NFL through the season’s first half. His seven sacks (out of the Bears total) have given the group an air of respectability and helped keep the Bears mid-NFL in sack totals. Would the Bears like to see more pressure? Of course, but the entire league is looking to create more pressure as sack totals have plummeted from a year ago. To my estimation this defensive line has been good enough to win games through the first half.