The highest-graded player replacing the lowest-graded one could be what pushed the Chicago Bears into being the NFL’s third best defense according to Pro Football Focus.
“No unit has improved like the Chicago Bears have on defense. It still has some issues, but it has been undermined by their offense more than most teams, not to mention injuries. They have some impressive grades in coverage across the entire back seven, while the defensive front has been very stout against the run, even if the pass-rush remains a concern.”
Vic Fangio’s defense receiving this type of praise is impressive considering what the group has gone through to earn it.
The Bears have three Week 1 starters currently on injured reserve with inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, outside linebacker Willie Young, and safety Quintin Demps all out for the foreseeable future. Further, the team has played with four different starting inside linebacker pairs with Nick Kwiatkoski, Christian Jones, and John Timu each getting time with to Freeman or Danny Trevathan. Similarly, the Bears have been successfully mixing and matching at cornerback where Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller, and Bryce Callahan have each spent time in a starting role.
A youth movement in the secondary has provided more positives than expected. One could make a case for replacing Demps with Adrian Amos, who is PFF’s sixth highest graded safety, as the most important move leading to the elevation of the Bears’ defense to new heights. Demps, who signed a three-year deal with the Bears as a free agent during the offseason, owns a 43.4 grade that ranks as the lowest among Bears defenders and the 11th worst among all NFL qualifying safeties.
One way to aid Mitch Trubisky’s development at quarterback is to surround him with playmakers. Sure, some pass-catchers would be nice. But getting the defense straightened out and performing at a high level will do wonders for the team, and in turn, the team’s rookie quarterback.