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.
In the pre-draft process, a lot of people convinced the Bears they had needs that weren’t really there. In reality, the Bears really didn’t lack talent, especially in the front seven.
Pernell McPhee’s knee may never be fully healthy, but he showed last year he can still make a significant impact, notching four sacks and 12 quarterback hits despite playing over half the team’s snaps in just four games.
Leonard Floyd is a legitimate stud, while Willie Young has 24 sacks over the last three years and Lamarr Houston had a team-best eight in 2015. Very few teams have that kind of talent and depth at such a premium position.
We don’t know if or when Danny Trevathan can play in 2017 or what level he’ll be playing at, but Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski should be good enough to get the job done.
The secondary was a problem, but the Bears replaced the entire unit. DeVante Bausby, Jacoby Glenn and Tracy Porter are gone. They can’t hurt us anymore. And Cre’Von LeBlanc likely will be out by the end of training camp.
Prince Amukamara has been a legitimately good starting cornerback in his career, when he’s been healthy. The same can be said about Bryce Callahan. If the Bears can get a combined 16 games out of them, they’ll be in good shape.
The team added Marcus Cooper for the other spot, likely competing with Kyle Fuller. Either player would be a significant upgrade over what they had last year.
At safety, the Bears added players who can take the ball away. Both veteran Quintin Demps and rookie Eddie Jackson have shown the ability to find the ball and that’s something the Bears were sorely lacking last year.
The Bears defense should’ve been better than it was last year, but they had a ton of injuries. That’s not likely to happen again and, even if it does, they’re better equipped to handle it. I fully expect the team to have a top-10 defense in 2017.