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ATM: 5 Reasons To Think Defense Will Still Be Great in ’19

| June 11th, 2019

All offseason we’ve heard about how the Chicago Bears defense is going to drop off in 2019. But there are plenty of reasons to think that won’t happen. Here are five.


#5. Great Defenses Tend to Stay at Least Really Good

Even if there is a drop off, it isn’t likely to be enough to thwart the Bears season.

Look back to 2012 and you’ll find Seattle ranking in the top five in DVOA for five consecutive seasons, including two first-place finishes, despite having three different defensive coordinators. They led the league in scoring defense four straight years before finishing third in 2016.

Then there’s Denver, which went from fourth in 2014 to first in 2015 and 2016 with two different defensive coordinators.

You know what both of those defenses had in common with the 2018/19 Bears? Really good players. If something were to happen where the Bears wouldn’t have really good players, maybe there would be a drop off, but there’s no reason to think that will be the case.


#4. They Might Have More Talent

My favorite tidbit that came from The Bears 100 celebration was the quotes of Josh Lucas, the team’s director of player personnel. Specifically, it was what Lucas said about new safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in comparison with the guy he replaced. From Mark Potash of the Sun-Times:

“The way Ha Ha fell to us was just complete icing on the cake,” Lucas said. “For Ha Ha to want to be a part of us, and sign the deal he signed … and we’re not saying this now because he’s here and Amos is in Green Bay. We have consistently graded Ha Ha as a better player than Amos for four years. For that to happen really solidified the pro side of it.”

There certainly is also reason to believe the team feels it upgraded with Buster Skrine over Bryce Callahan, especially considering the time Callahan tends to miss.

(And don’t think it’s just the Bears who don’t think Amos is all that great. The Broncos, now headed by former Bears Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell, chose to sign Kareem Jackson to play safety instead of Amos.)


#3. Chuck Has a Strong Rep

Using the failures of the Indianapolis Colts against Chuck Pagano is like using Wade Phillips’ multiple head-coaching failures against him. Some guys are just meant to coach defense and Pagano is one of them. This will be just Pagano’s second season as a defensive coordinator, but since the start of 2000, he has as many seasons coordinating the league’s top DVOA defense as Vic Fangio does.

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Fangio to Denver, Bears Looking for a New Defensive Coordinator

| January 9th, 2019

Three initial thoughts:

  • I’ve never been one of the Fangio sycophants. I think he’s a good, solid, stable defensive coach but his genius has been overstated for years. The Bears defense took a leap this season because the Bears added one of the two best defensive players in the sport and drafted a star inside linebacker. That’s why sacks, turnovers, performance increased.
  • Fangio deserved this opportunity, probably years ago. But Bears fans should get used to this feeling because I predict they will lose multiple coordinators in the Matt Nagy/Mitch Trubisky years to head coaching gigs.  That’s what comes with sustained success.
  • This simplest solution is Ed Donatell, who has done a wonderful job with the Bears secondary. But the Bears shouldn’t rush. They need to find a defensive mind that mirrors the folks running their offense: aggressive and exciting. Fangio liked his corners to play off the ball and liked to take his best pass rushes out of the pass rush in big moments. This defense has all the talent in the world. It needs a little meanness.

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Three More Thoughts on Bears v. Packers, or No Podcast This Week

| September 7th, 2018

The podcast is not going to be a weekly occurrence this season. There will be around 8-10 episodes during the regular season, beginning next week with The Return of Adam Jahns. (I think Jahnsy and Ryan Pace are giggling on a seesaw in Niles right now.) In the meantime, some thoughts…


Thought #1

When Mike Pettine was working with Rex Ryan in New Jersey the team had a hellish time dealing with tight ends. (A lot of this was the result of over-blitzing to pressure the quarterback.) And while Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel have been recovering from/dealing with injuries this summer, Trey Burton and Mitch Trubisky have developed a rapport that’s going to drive defenses crazy. Pettine will empty the kitchen cabinets Sunday night and Trubisky will use his security blanket to move the chains. Big opener for Burton.


Thought #2

Brian Urlacher told Dan Patrick on Wednesday that under Lovie Smith the Bears once ran cover-2 against Aaron Rodgers on 46 of 47 plays in the second half. And won the game. (Sounds like a bit of a stretch but I’m not about to do the research.) Vic Fangio should be able to generate more than enough pass rush with his front. Why not go to some Cover-2 looks Sunday night and try to limit Rodgers’ ability to beat the defense over the top? These aren’t great pass catchers in Green Bay. If they have to make 10-12 plays to get into the end zone, against this Bears defense, they’ll make a mistake (or be forced into one) before they put seven on the board.


Thought #3

Cody Parkey had a so-so summer. While I’m told he’s been lights out in non-public practices, the team has some concern as to whether the Jupiter, Florida native (and I assume golfer because that’s what you do down there) is ready for the bright lights of Bears football. You can miss kicks in Miami. Nobody goes to those games. You miss kicks in Bears v. Packers, it gets noticed. Everyone in the organization will breathe a massive sigh of relief if Parkey posts a clean sheet Sunday night.

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Some Football Implications of the Khalil Mack Trade

| September 2nd, 2018

Khalil Mack is a Chicago Bear and much of yesterday was spent dissecting the context of the move: what the trade meant. But there are major football implications associated with this acquisition as well, especially for this defense as they are currently constructed. In other words, this is what the trade does.

  • The biggest beneficiaries of Mack’s acquisition are Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks. Throw on some Mack tape and you’ll see an endless array of double teams. (More often than not, he beats them too.) Mack will be Focal Point #1 for every opposing offensive coordinator because Mack is capable of ruining games. With all that attention on the newest Bear, expect Floyd and Hicks to see a lot of refreshing singles and subsequently expect a lot of production from both.
  • Mack had 79 QB pressures last season. The Bears team had 100. Total. For Mack, that’s five a game. That’s five times a game Aaron Rodgers or Matt Stafford don’t get to sit in a clean pocket and pick apart the Bears secondary. Expect more rushed throws and thus more opportunities for the Bears secondary to turn opposing QBs over.
  • It’s not easy to double team edge guys. It often requires keeping tight ends and backs out of the passing game. And in this modern NFL, tight ends and backs are wildcard weapons, keeping defensive coordinators on their heels, forcing guys with less speed to cover in space. When Mack gets disruptive it’ll force offenses to stay in a more conventional approach.
  • With all the focus on the edge, Vic Fangio will be able to drop Mack and Floyd into coverage and send Roquan and Trevathan at the quarterback. Vic will able to crash Mack inside and send Bryce Callahan on a slot corner blitz. Vic will be able to do whatever the hell he wants because that is what having an elite pass rusher affords you.

Mack makes every single player on the defense more dangerous. He is among the two or three best defenders in the entire league. And the Bears defense should be expected to rank in the top five across the board because of him.

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The Positional Quick 3: Defensive Coaches

| June 28th, 2018

I’m traveling in Dingle, Ireland years ago and I’m exhausted. This was my first day ever in Europe and I couldn’t keep my eyes open at 4:30 in the afternoon. My uncle turns to me and says, “Have a quick three. You’ll be fine.” I drank three Guinness in the span of a half hour. Seven hours later I’m dancing to a shitty Irish house DJ with Jenny Pye, a local lass who dreamed of being an EMT in New York City.

I’m very tired of this 2018 off-season. And incredibly eager for the season to begin. So I’m taking the quick three approach to each position group as we head into the summer. Not grading the groups or anything. Just making some points.


Defensive Coaches

  • The core of anyone’s belief that this Bears edition will find itself fighting for a postseason spot in December is continuity with the defensive coaching staff. John Fox and Vic Fangio inherited the worst Bears defense in franchise history and quickly turned that around with an influx of talent and a ton of tremendous coaching. Fox is gone but Fangio’s task is simple: take this group and put them over the top.
  • There seems to be a belief out there that Fangio’s head coaching dreams are dead. And they probably are because I just don’t see an NFL franchise hiring a 60+ year old defensive guy to his first head coaching gig. Guys who get hired at that age almost exclusively have been head coaches previously. But with full autonomy on one side of the ball, Vic has a chance to become a legend in Chicago. There’s not another DC gig in the league where that’s the case. Yea, the grass is always greener but this grass is pretty f’n green.
  • There’s pressure on Jay Rodgers this season. The Bears have two stars on their defensive line in Hicks and Goldman but their defensive line coach has to maximize the talent in RRH, Bullard and rookie Bilal Nichols. If he does, Rodgers could find himself running a defense in the league next season.

Tomorrow: Special teams

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Across The Middle: Does Vic Want To Play Chess?

| April 4th, 2018

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio hasn’t shown a lot of creativity when it comes to how he uses his players, but that just might change if the draft breaks the way many expect. Because if three quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears – with Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson and Saquon Barkley also going – the best players Ryan Pace might be looking at are versatile defensive backs Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

It isn’t really fair or accurate to pigeon hole James or Fitzpatrick as safeties. They both played in the box, as slot corners or nickel linebackers, a significant amount. (An argument can be made that’s where they were at their best.) The Bears would be able to start either player at safety and move them down in sub-packages.

They’d be closer to the line of scrimmage more often than not, but the Bears have never used a player like them under Fangio.



Fangio has had chances to use extra safeties. He just hasn’t.

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ATM: Harold Landry Is The Best Player the Bears Aren’t Likely To Take

| March 28th, 2018

Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry projects as a dynamic player at a position of need for the Bears. While an ankle injury slowed him last year (before ending his season completely) he still managed 21.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons at BC. He also forced ten fumbles in his collegiate career and added an interception for good measure.

After dominating on the field, Landry put on a show at the combine last month. According to MockDraftable:

  • Landry tested in the 87th percentile or better in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.
  • His broad jump was in the 72nd percentile.
  • Many consider the agility drills to be the most important for pass rushers and Landry tested in the 91st percentile in 20-yard shuttle, 95th in three-cone drill and 99th in 60-yard shuttle.

That elite athleticism and shows on tape.



While his technique may still need some refinement, he’s incredibly active, bouncing around the edge and attacking offensive tackles before getting to the quarterback. He’s an impressive player to watch.

And the Bears will likely pass on Landry without a second thought. His arms are too short.

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Across The Middle: Vic’s Right, Bears D Needs to Be Better

| January 31st, 2018

After weeks of Chicago’s media and fans singing Vic Fangio’s praises, the re-hired defensive coordinator’s message at his re-introductory press conference was simple, clear and correct: his defenses have not been good enough.

Thanks largely to playing games against the Browns and Bengals (their averages through 12 games would’ve had them 16th in yardage and 18th in scoring), the Bears defense snuck into the top 10 in yardage and scoring bythe end of the year. It’s been a hell of a climb when you consider where they were before Fangio came to Chicago, but they’re still not good enough. While the scoring and yardage numbers are nice, the Bears were still closer to the middle of the pack in takeaways (13th), third-down defense (20th) and DVOA (14th).

Although they had injuries at the end of the year – when their defense actually climbed the rankings – there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have been better defensively.



One of the biggest problems has been the way the team has started.

In three years with Fangio, the Bears have given up scores on at least one of their first two possessions thirty times, including nine last year. While the offense was going through growing pains with a rookie quarterback and injuries at wide receiver, they were also forced to play from behind early in games. That’s a losing formula.

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Notes on the Nagy Coaching Staff

| January 15th, 2018


It’s okay to get excited about a new coaching staff.

It doesn’t mean you irrationally believe that staff is going to cure all that ails the franchise you root for; in this case your Chicago Bears. It doesn’t mean the good players will now become great players and the bad players good players. It just means you believe a new collection of leaders, a new assemblage of ideas has the chance to change things for the better.

When John Fox hired Adam Gase and Vic Fangio to be his offensive and defensive coordinators (respectively) there was nary a negative word to be written. Gase was the hottest young offensive assistant in the game, having interviewed for several head-coaching vacancies. Fangio was a steady rock of a coordinator, coming off his most successful stint in the league. Did it work out? No. But was that any fault of the initial coordinator hires? Doubtful. That blame falls on quarterback turnover, a tsunami of injuries and a head coach watching the game blow by like a Dakotan tumbleweed.

This is a coaching staff to get excited about. And fans should allow themselves that moment of excitement, even if it is only a moment. There are many reasons why.

  • When I ask my friends in the league to name the best offensive line coaches in the sport, three names surface: Dante Scarnecchia (the gold standard), Mike Munchak (will be employed in the NFL for 30 more years) and Harry Hiestand. Hiestand’s first time around with the Bears was exceptional but over the last five years he’s built Notre Dame’s OL into one of the most consistently dominating position groups in the nation. Of all the hires Nagy made this week, this is the most impressive.
  • But don’t get wrapped up in how this effects the draft. Yes, I believe Quenton Nelson is the best player entering the NFL next season and would be THRILLED to see him in Chicago. But the Bears would have known his ability with or without Hiestand on the staff. All having Hiestand at Halas Hall does is eliminate the need for lengthy pre-draft meetings with the ND guard. (The same can be said for the other major league prospect off this unit, tackle Mike McGlinchey.)

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