If you haven’t read Andrew Dannehy’s piece on why the Bears defense will improve in 2017, you should. It is a detailed explanation of why this unit will continue its ascent up the rankings and join the top shelf of the league’s defenses.
These two signings are about one thing: rush defense. For all the improvement the Bears defense made in 2016, they did not improve at all as a rush defense. A lot of this can be placed at the feet of injuries. Trevathan and Goldman were horribly missed for much of the season and the rush defense went flat into the toilet once Freeman was suspended.
Howard and Skuta are early-down, plug-and-play guys. And they are here to help the Bears get their rush defense to under 100 yards per game.
Rick Morrissey in the Sun-Times wrote an interesting piece about how the Chicago sports landscape is so vastly different than it was five months ago. Here is what he had to say about the Bears:
While they didn’t attack that side of the ball the way many people thought they should in the draft, the Bears defense should still be significantly improved in 2017.
Just last week the Bears made a significant addition to their front seven adding Jaye Howard from Kansas City. Howard is a bull against the run and has shown some ability to rush the passer, finishing with 5.5 sacks in 2015. He missed half of the 2016 season, but passed a physical and appears to be ready to go. Howard will start for the Bears and has the ability to play in their nickel packages, rotating with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks, representing a significant upgrade over Mitch Unrein.
Howard will also push second-year player Jonathan Bullard. Bullard has the potential to be a stud but was terrible as a rookie. If the Bears — with one of the best defensive line coaches in the league in Jay Rodgers — can develop Bullard, they might have the best front seven in the league.
These are the guys to watch. In his postseason presser, Ryan Pace said the team wasn’t going to spent big on one guy, instead spreading their money out. That could mean multiple players from this tier.
Malik Jackson, DL, Denver
Pros: He gained much more recognition in the playoffs as one of the best pass rushing and run-stopping defensive linemen in the league. Jackson constantly drew double teams, freeing others up for sacks.
Cons: The draft figures to be strong along the defensive line this year and Jackson is likely looking for a big pay day — which could explain why the Broncos extended Derek Wolfe instead. With Eddie Golman already in place, the Bears could sign a significantly cheaper veteran and develop linemen behind him.
Jaye Howard, DL, Kansas City
Pros: A good athlete who is really tough against the run. Showed some pass-rush ability. Dominated Vlad Ducasse and Hroniss Grasu. Would immediately be the team’s second best defensive lineman.
Cons: Kind of a one-year wonder. Played less than half of his team’s snaps every other year. Kansas City usually took him off the field in passing situations. Committed eight penalties last year. If Jackson and Wilkerson get huge contracts, Howard’s price could be driven up. The question needs to be asked again: Do you pay for a player, or draft and develop behind him?
Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver
Pros: Instinctive and rangy, Trevathan has been a key to the Broncos defense this year after missing most of the 2014 season. He has excelled in coverage and shows really good instincts. Rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the best tacklers in the league.