NFL

NFL: Here’s What the Chicago Bears Really Think of Their Defense

Khalil Mack (from left), Roquan Smith, and Leonard Floyd might give the Chicago Bears one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2019.

The Chicago Bears went from a 5-11 record in 2017 to 12-4 in 2018 thanks in large part to an improved defense. The 2018 team led the NFL in points allowed, and it was third in yards allowed. With the defense as strong as it is, the Bears can keep it close in pretty much any game they play, even without an explosive offense. So what do the Bears’ coaches really think of their defense? Let’s take a look.

The Bears don’t have to worry about their defense

The Chicago Bears might have one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2019.
The Chicago Bears might have one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2019. | Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bears don’t have to worry about their defense because it is stacked with stars — names like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson, and Kyle Fuller. Not surprisingly, head coach Matt Nagy is pleased with what he’s been seeing from the defensive unit in training camp. He told the Bears’ website that “They’re way past where I thought they were going to be. I’ve seen a lot in a good way.” 

And why wouldn’t the defense be impressing Nagy? All of the core pieces from last year’s league-best defense returns this year. Nagy’s praise for the defense continued by saying he doesn’t think “there is any other defense in the NFL that I’d rather go against in practice every day.”

New defensive coordinator

One piece of last year’s defense who didn’t return for 2019 is defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who is now the Broncos’ head coach this season. Replacing him in Chicago is former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. 

Pagano has also been impressed with the defense in camp. He said the players have been “doing some really good things” and that “the chemistry is really coming together … they’re making some plays.” Pagano thinks the defense still has a way to go, but he is pleased with the transition to him from Fangio. Pagano praised Fangio for building “one heck of a roster” with significant depth. He says it’s been easy to put his scheme and game plan in place because the players’ “football IQ is off the charts.”

Top defensive playmakers for the Bears

The Bears have several potent playmakers on defense. The biggest of which is Mack, who the Bears acquired from the Raiders in a trade just before the start of the 2018 season. In his first season with the Bears, the former first-round pick had a career-high six forced fumbles and recovered two fumbles. He also had 12.5 sacks and an interception, which he took into the end zone for a touchdown. Mack is considered by some to be the best defensive player in the league. 

Other key pieces of the defense include Fuller and Jackson, who led the team with seven and six interceptions, respectively. Then there’s Hicks, who had three forced fumbles, and LBs Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, who each accounted for more than 100 tackles last season, including 89 solo tackles for Smith.

Can the defense be better in 2019?

The Bears had the league’s best defense in 2018, but the question is, can the D be even better in 2019? Mack didn’t get to the team until days before the season started last year, so he may not have been fully up to speed with the team’s playbook and game plan early in the season. Now with a full year with the organization, even with the new coordinator, Mack has experience with the Bears and their system. Mack only played in 14 games last season, including 13 starts, so if he can start all 16 games, it would give the Bears an advantage that they didn’t have a year ago. The defense was so elite last year that it would be hard to improve upon it this year, but the Bears could do that with the players that they have on that side of the ball.