If Bears Want an Elite Defense in 2018, They Will Need Multiple Rookies to Contribute

| May 16th, 2018

The Bears did not invest many high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball last month, outside of top selection Roquan Smith. But there’s a good chance the team will need multiple rookie defensive players – all acquired day three or later – to play prominent roles in they want to be an elite unit in 2018.

  • Smith is a given. His ability to cover all parts of the field is something the Bears haven’t had since Brian Urlacher and, like Urlacher, the general expectation is that Smith will be one of the top rookies in the league.
  • Kylie Fitts is going to have the easiest path to the starting lineup. Sam Acho and Aaron Lynch have proven to be nothing more than journeymen and Fitts has the ability to be a top-tier pass rusher. If not for a series of injuries in college, he would’ve been selected significantly higher in the draft. While much of the focus is on pass rush, Bears scout David Williams said the team thinks Fitts can play the run from Day One and has upside as a pass rusher.
  • Another Bears scout, Chris Prescott, was confident in Bilal Nichols:“You’re talking about a guy you expect year one to come in and probably immediately backup at all three positions,” Prescott told the team website. “I think this is a guy who can come in and help you right away.” Nichols has the size and strength to take on blocks in the NFL and combines that with rare athleticism for the position. Nichols is bigger than current projected starting defensive end Jonathan Bullard and nearly as athletic. With Roy Robertson-Harris being smaller and not likely able to take on blocks in the team’s base defense, Nichols could be Bullard’s primary competition for a starting job. Even if he doesn’t start, Nichols will probably take the role Bullard had last year, playing 25 to 50 percent of the snaps weekly.

  • On paper it doesn’t look like fourth-round linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe has a clear path to playing time, but nobody should be surprised if he ends up seeing the field quite a bit on more than just special teams. Like Smith, Iggy has rare speed for the position and the Bears used a pretty big draft asset to get him, taking him with the 115th pick. The team surely views Iggy has the eventual replacement for Danny Trevathan and that could happen sooner than most think. Trevathan is a good player, but has suffered major injuries nearly every other year in his career. Since becoming a starter in 2013, Trevathan has played all 16 games just once in his career. He missed nearly the entire season in 2014 and half the season in 2016. Last year, he played 12 games. Saying there’s a good chance the Bears are going to need Iggy is an understatement. It’s almost a guarantee and the Bears seem to want it that way.

It isn’t just the draft picks who could play quite a few snaps. Out of the 15 undrafted free agents the Bears brought in, four were defensive backs. While they have some safety depth with recently drafted players, cornerback remains a big question mark.

Each of the Bears top three cornerbacks has missed significant time with injuries in recent seasons. Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan haven’t been able to stay on the field in their careers. UDFA’s such as Kevin Toliver II from LSU and Rashard Fant from Indiana could challenge for the top backup jobs behind them.

While many expected the Bears to spend more premium assets to finish rebuilding their defense, the guys they did come away with could all have a major impact in 2018.

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  • SC Dave

    I’d have to say that Smith has the easiest path to the starting line-up. Pace has shown a clear tendency to make sure his first pick gets on the field.

    Hopefully, Fangio will make Roquan *earn* the starting job.

    • That Guy

      Earning a starting job over Kwiatkoski means Smith being able to tie his shoes.

      • BenderMcLugh

        I like Kwiat, but if he starts day 1 over Smith that has to be an issue

        • I would have mixed feelings about it.
          If it’s the Fox Langford over Howard crap all over again (Langford only started cuz he wasn’t a rook when everyone w eyes could see Howard was superior ) then I’ll be pissed.

          If it’s because Smith looks totally lost and is getting run over, then I would take that as a sign that Nagy isn’t taking marching orders from Pace , which is better for long term success (esp if Smith is another of his 1st RD busts)

          But, Smith will be given every chance just as White

          • CanadaBear

            I don’t think Pace is any different than any other GM when he shows preferential treatment for a draft pick. Now that it’s either Miller or White fighting for playing time, White’s favored status is out the window.

          • Irish Sweetness

            If your #1 pick isn’t on the field then you probably fucked up.

            I find it hard to believe that Miller can know more than White at this stage, though they’ll probably start him anyway. In a WCO, that could prove disastrous. Timing patterns, the playbook … Miller would have to be an ingenue to come in and start.

          • BenderMcLugh

            agreed, but what I meant by a problem is that Smith should outshine all the ILBs, which I certainly think he will except for maybe Tre. If not then I’ll be worried.

    • If Amos started as a rook, Smith would have to look like abject dog poop to not be able to unseat Kwiat as the starter.

      I’m guessing Tre will be resting a lot this off-season, so both will be given lots of playing time.

      Might be Kwiats last chance to make his case as a starter, if not for us, some other team

  • ButtonShoes

    Smith should be a day-one contributor. The rest? Sounds like some wishful thinking to me.

    • evantonio

      Briggs was wishful thinking, too.

      • So was-is White and Floyd

        • Scharfinator

          Floyd seems like a starting JAG right now. White is goodwill bargain bin garbage.

  • BenderMcLugh

    “Even if he doesn’t start, Nichols will probably take the role Bullard had last year, playing 25 to 50 percent of the snaps weekly.”

    Is RRH gone? He’s still listed on the roster chart.

    • Big Mike

      Not gone, but in the base defense he’s a bit light for the base defense. He came into the NFL at 225. He was injured his rookie year, played a bit last year throughout that time he’s gotten his weight up to 295. Some have him projected as the starting DE opposite Hicks. He’s also expected to contribute on special teams. If his technique improves, he may be a real diamond in the rough. I I personally believe that Nichols will be a back up at DE.

      • Scharfinator

        70 pounds in TWO years? Holy fuck that’s some good HGH.

        • evantonio


          • Scharfinator
          • beninnorcal

            I love that place.

          • CanadaBear

            For some reason they have no presence in Canada.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            I heard its because the founder is afraid of moose.

          • CanadaBear

            They should put some moose meat in the food. People would freak out how good it is. All kidding aside, moose is a fave (other than the wang, of course).

          • AlbertInTucson

            How is he with the Elks, Lions and Knights of Columbus?

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            fine with them, but don’t bring up the Masons.

          • Juan Stone

            You Either love em or hate em. Me? A cold burrito that is mostly rice just doesn’t do anything for me.

          • CanadaBear

            I’ve only been there a couple of times but thought it was good for fast food. No doubt an authentic place is infinitely better.

          • Always tell all places ‘ no rice por favor’ .
            And whenever possible, handmade tortillas and salsa

        • Sensible Sports Fan

          That’s not accurate. He came into the NFL at 255 based on his Pro Day, and at 6’7″ he had the frame to add weight. I believe he got up to around 290 playing 5-tech DE for us.

          • Scharfinator

            Ahh, 35 lbs makes a bit more sense to me.

          • Big Mike

            Sorry for waking up the blog this AM, with my typo.

          • Big Mike

            typo 255 is right.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            That is unacceptable Mike!

          • Big Mike

            I know right. Set the regulars off into a panic. But gaining 40 is a solid gain and completely changes his profile from what he was coming out of college. It was pointed out that his injury in his rookie year was really a “redshirt” situation for him to gain weight. I share that opinion.

        • Big Mike

          Typo 255

      • BenderMcLugh

        agreed, he has been steadily improving and is a good fit as a rotational pass rusher

        • Big Mike

          Also, making the rounds on the blog, I had a typo. He came into the league at 255 NOT 225.

          • leftcoastdave

            That “injury” was a red shirt to bulk him up. He’s quick and long with the added weight being all muscle. I agree he may be awesome with his length coming at right handed qbs with his hands up while others tunnel under or bend around.

          • Big Mike

            “serious heat related injury” Sounds like a redshirt year. Fangio new what he was doing.

      • It’s my understanding that Fangio likes his REs quicker and smaller.
        Bullard was actually projected as a 3 tech DT coming out of the draft, though ‘undersized
        ‘ DTs are 285ish (like Justin Smith from the 9ers).

        Justin Smiths main job on the 9ers was two hold two blockers so Aldon Smith, Bowman and Willis can make plays, but i think Fangio wanted more out of Bullard. He wanted that one gap penetrator not another Goldman to clog.

        Maybe Fangio’s given up on that hope and wants more of a clogger so the undersized Floyd and Smith can fly around.

        Might explain why they drafted man mountain [6’4 306] Nichols

        On obvious passing downs or NASCAR packages, Bullard and RRH will get subbed in

  • T.dyon

    Nice article, I have the same thinking. The potential is there, the confidence is there, the Coaching is there, the unknown factor, is the amount of time for each to develop in their given situation.

  • leftcoastdave

    The D line has great potential now with pieces who can rotate in. Bullard is a big stuffer to match Hicks and Goldman in the base D. RRH and now Nichols have motors to rotate in on the passing downs and spell the base D line. This should be fun to see.
    People still bash Bullard. He needed time to develop his big body and last year was severely hampered by a strained glute which is a high hammy and death to a lineman because that is where the power is generated.

  • willbest

    Kylie Fitts is an amazing stripper name, what in the hell were his parents thinking

    • CanadaBear

      His mother’s maiden name is Helen Bedd.

      • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

        His Dad’s name is Richard.

    • AlbertInTucson

      “If the the shoe Fitts…”

    • Scharfinator

      That boy is giving me the Fitts!

  • BerwynBomber

    “While they have some safety depth with recently drafted players, cornerback remains a big question mark.”

    Compared to which other team? The Rams, the Vikings, ATL, maybe Philly?

    Hate to break it to you, but Fuller/Prince/Bryce is arguably a top half of the league group. And LeBlanc isn’t half bad coming off the bench despite the jokes and beatings he takes on these threads.

    Yeah, Tolliver or Fant could make the final 53 — they both were borderline draftable prospects — but the hand-wringing over CB the last year seemed a little misguided.

    Fuller and Callahan are entering their prime and solidly above average players. Prince isn’t all that, of course, but he is also not dog shit.

    • BenderMcLugh

      To me Andrew was referring to the fact that the starters have trouble staying on the field, forcing the younger guys to step up. If Fuller/Prince/Bryce play 16 games, that would be the first time together.

    • I worry about depth outside, where Cooper is slated to be the top backup. LeBlanc is a fine backup nickelback.

      I don’t know where any of thinks the Bears have safety depth though. The non-starting safeties on the roster are Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Hall, and some UDFA.

      • Both Prince and Callahan are totally INJ prone. And Fuller has had his issues as well, so I get the consternation at CB.

        We’re about 2 INJs away (see above) from the McManus show.

        • BerwynBomber

          But that is basically every team in the league.

          • I’m not sure other team’s CB are so INJ prone .
            Prince has only been healthy 2 seasons out of like 7. Callahan has never been healthy an entire season.

            And we really don’t have any young prospects behind them.

            Can’t fill all positions though.

            LeBlanc actually makes plays but is wildly inconsistent.

            MCMannis and Cooper having to cover Diggs or Thielen tho…

      • BerwynBomber

        I’m surprised guys like Reid and Vacarro are still out there.

        But maybe guys like that are refusing to accept back-up money and/or they’re doing the Cutty thing and waiting for a team to lose one of its starting S’s in camp or preseason.

        Dez Bryant might be playing a similar game at WR. Says he doesn’t regret not accepting BAL’s offer but we’ll see.

        No doubt he is eyeing NE like its the hottest DAL cheerleader.

  • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

    Have you ever been so mad that you take a shit in public and throw it at people? Not me.


    • Must be a yuge Triumph the Insult Dog fan

      “That’s a nice combo. For me to poop on!”

    • willbest

      I don’t think its a function of anger levels. This reaction just flat out is not in my DNA.

    • beninnorcal

      I’ve probably come close.

      • willbest


        For starters, How often are you really mad at the same time you could pinch a loaf on the quick?

        And even then, when are you at that much at a loss for an object hurl that its at the top of your list?

    • KentuckyBearsFan

      I think my instinct would be to throw something other than my own shit. So, you know, I wouldn’t be touching my own shit. And more importantly, when I’m really angry, I don’t think my first urge is to take a dump.

      So there would be like this hand-eye-bowel coordination required which would take practice for good execution.

    • AlbertInTucson

      Hmm. Someone who actually “Gives a shit!”.

      Everybody sing!

      “Ohhhh, Caaaanadaaaa…”

  • John F

    But there’s a good chance the team will need multiple rookie defensive players…to play prominent roles if they want to be an elite unit in 2018

    But I was told the Bears were a top 10 defense last year and don’t need any additional help? When I said that the just-drafted rookies were absolutely necessary just to have the same season in 2018 that we had in 2017 I was told I was totally off-base.

    Man, I am really confused…….

    • willbest

      Your mistake is thinking that yesterday’s logic applies to today. Don’t make that mistake tomorrow

      • John F

        Now I am even more confused ……. thanks a lot Will ……..

    • evantonio

      Elite is top 3.

  • “Asking John Fox what’s wrong with the Bears passing game is akin to asking an Amish guy what’s wrong with your car”

    Hey, don’t knock the Amish!


  • SC Dave

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