How the Bears' Defense Can Maintain Their Dominance

Vince Carbonneau
May 26, 2024  (7:49 PM)

Matt Eberflus yelling at the refs
Photo credit: ESPN

Unpacking the Bears' Defensive Performance: A Deeper Dive

Last season's overall defensive statistics for the Bears might not fully reflect their impressive finish. While the stats indicate a 12th overall ranking in defense, a closer examination reveals a much more dominant performance.
Despite recording only six interceptions in the first 10 games, the Bears ended the season tied for first with 22 interceptions. This drastic improvement in their pass defense is evident in other metrics as well.
For instance, the passer rating of opposing quarterbacks was 99.6 over the first eight games but dropped significantly to 74.9 in the final nine games. Similarly, the Bears recorded just 10 sacks in their first eight games but accumulated 30 sacks by the end of the season. This surge in defensive pressure was not due to opponents choosing to run more; the Bears faced only 22.8 rushes per game, tied with the 49ers for the fewest in the league.
The pivotal change was the arrival of Montez Sweat, which bolstered the defensive front and led to improved run stopping and increased sacks and pass defense. Coach Matt Eberflus highlighted this shift: "Our defense played well down the stretch. We anticipate them coming off to a fast start."
With the return of nearly all starters except Justin Jones and Eddie Jackson, and 10 of the 11 starters familiar with their roles from last year, the Bears are well-positioned to carry their momentum into the new season. However, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and there are three key factors beyond injuries that could impact their performance. Depth in the secondary and at linebacker can help mitigate the impact of injuries.
Kevin Byard's Adaptation
Replacing Eddie Jackson, Kevin Byard had a challenging 2023 season after being traded to Philadelphia. He struggled with pass defense, allowing 16 completions on 22 targets and posting a passer rating against of 102.1, one of the worst of his career. However, Byard's past performance suggests he has the potential to excel. Defensive coordinator Eric Washington is optimistic about Byard's integration: "You see the command, the intelligence, his ability to communicate very quickly, especially as we need to make adjustments before the ball is snapped."
Jackson's performance last year was subpar, with a 120.6 passer rating against and three TDs allowed. Despite this, he was graded as the 23rd best safety by Pro Football Focus, while Jackson was ranked 76th out of 95 safeties. This indicates that Byard could actually be an upgrade, improving the Bears' pass defense even with a lineup change.
By focusing on these key areas, the Bears can continue their defensive dominance and start the season strong.
MAY 26   |   57 ANSWERS
How the Bears' Defense Can Maintain Their Dominance

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