With so much focus on the offense with Mitch Trubisky’s development, Adam Shaheen’s usage, and Jordan Howard’s excellence as driving forces in our mind, it can be easy to overlook the superlative play of the Chicago Bears defense.
It’s time to start believing in the Monsters of the Midway as a premier defense in the NFL:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 3, 2017
The Bears defense ranks eighth in yards allowed per game and ninth in average yards per play, which means this group isn’t giving up much with regards to big plays down the field, yards after catches, and breakaway runs. It’s a 180-degree improvement from last year’s defense that was gashed on the ground and beaten in the air too often for our liking. After struggling to find footing in the pass rushing department earlier in the year, the Bears are currently tied for seventh in the NFL with 23 sacks.
And it’s not just that Vic Fangio’s group is playing well, it’s who is playing well that should have Bears fans excited about the future.
Defensive end Akiem Hicks has ignited the Bears’ defensive push, with seven sacks which puts him in the top-10 on the NFL’s leaderboard and has him one-half sack from tying a career best. Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos have led the youth movement responsible for solidifying the secondary. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd didn’t record his first sack until Week 4, but has five sacks in five games since. Danny Trevathan has Pro Football Focus’ fourth best pass rushing grade and fifth best coverage grade among inside linebackers.
In total, 10 of 11 starters in the Bears’ base defense are graded as average or better according to Pro Football Focus. That includes Adrian Amos leading the way with an “elite” 92.0 grade, Hicks with a “high quality” 85.8 grade, and five others who grade out as above average.
That group features four draft picks and three free agents added in the last two offseasons. Credit GM Ryan Pace and his staff for identifying building blocks and the coaching staff for developing them into impact players with bright futures.
All things considered, this is impressive work considering the defense is playing without three Week 1 starters who are currently on injured reserve. To see the defense has take off despite the loss of inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, outside linebacker Willie Young, and safety Quintin Demps says a lot about the depth accumulated by the front office.
Yes, the Bears’ offense leaves much to be desired at every level and has a ton of catching up to do to reach the level of their defensive counterparts. And the special teams could tighten some loose ends en route to putting forth a better effort. But if the Bears are going to avoid repeating a 3-5 record in the second half of the season, it will come down to whether or not the defense can stay the course and continue to deliver the punishing hits that keep the team in games.