Oct 10, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs (55) breaks up a pass intended for New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs (34) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Chicago Bears Run Defense Go Worst-to-First?

Breaking franchise records for the worst run defense was not what the Chicago Bears had in mind in 2013.  Not only have their off-season moves hinted at improvement, but it might be beyond even their expectations.

Lamarr Houston and Ego Ferguson bring size and power up front

GM Phil Emery is nothing if not a pragmatic man.  Unlike others in his position around the league, when there is a problem with his team he is the first to put it out in the open.  He doesn’t pretend like it doesn’t exist.  Emery was rather frank when he said the run defense needed to be fixed following last season when the Chicago Bears gave up a franchise record 161 yards per game.  Such horrific play was brought about by several factors, but most notably a series of injuries to the defensive line.  So the Bears went about their off-season with the clear goal of getting bigger and stronger up front.

Their first major signing in free agency was defensive end Lamarr Houston.  At 300 lbs he has plenty of size for his position but carries it with surprising quickness and speed.  This allowed him to frequently shut off opposing running lanes.  In fact he was the 5th rated end overall against the run in the league in 2013.  Another significant addition that will join him is defensive tackle Ego Ferguson.  The Bears’ 2nd round pick in the May draft comes in with a lot of questions about his development as a complete tackle, but very few question his ability to stop the run.  With him and his 315 lbs frame in the middle, LSU fielded the 9th ranked run defense in 2013.

Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic offer speed and range

Everything starts up front of course but great run defense goes beyond the trenches too.  It also takes linebackers who can tackle.  Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams, when healthy are two proven veterans in that department.  The interesting part heading into the new season is Chicago may have even more help waiting in the wings.  Part of being a successful run defender is not just being strong but also having speed and range.  The two most prominent names competing at strong side linebacker, Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic, have that in spades.  New linebackers coach Reggie Herring, who coached talents like Brian Cushing and DeMarcus Ware, sees loads of potential in both players and it’s because of that speed and athleticism.  There is scarcely a running back they can’t catch and that means minimizing big runs, which will only help the defense further.

Ryan Mundy brings physicality and discipline at safety

At the same time great run defense also gets a helping hand from the back end, particularly the strong safety who frequently drops into the tackle box to help.  In this case it will likely be recent free agent pickup Ryan Mundy.  The Chicago Bears added the 29-year old because they liked his physicality and discipline when taking angles to the ball carrier.  Mundy has starting experience but spent much of his career in reserve behind names like Troy Polamalu and Antrel Rolle.  He might be serviceable at best in coverage, but he has shown capability around the line of scrimmage, making 77 tackles last season.

What is the common thread?  By all accounts the Chicago Bears are bigger, stronger, faster and tougher from the defensive line back.  Every single one of those traits are needed to field a top run defense.  Worst-to-first might sound ambitious, but it’s no longer impossible.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Chicago Bears Ego Ferguson Jon Bostic LaMarr Houston Ryan Mundy Shea McClellin

  • Pridenpoise

    Wishful thinking.

    • Erik Lambert

      Something you’d know about.

      • Pridenpoise

        Whenever I need a good laugh, your blogs never dissapoint.

        • Erik Lambert

          Hey, you’re the one who keeps bothering to read them so I’m not complaining.

  • Kirk Devries

    Top ten could happen. Anything can happen. We could be worst again. All signs point to a big improvement. Lamarr Houston is going to be big time and it will spread throughout the D.

    • Erik Lambert

      You have to look at the signs. They’re bigger and stronger up front. Athletic and faster at linebacker and tougher in the secondary. Those are the ingredients to run defense.

  • Tom Ward

    My question is who is are back up MLB – seems we have several for Weak and Strong but not middle – after DJ Williams who do we have?

    • Erik Lambert

      I believe McClellin and Bostic are in competition for that role. There is also free agent Jordan Senn.

  • Thompson Way

    I wonder if Jones would be a good fit at MLB? Overall, Emery has done a nice job bringing in some solid players. I can’t wait to see what variations they can get out of this lineup.
    Erik, don’t let the haters get you down. Haters are always going to hate. At least your articles/blogs are new points of view, instead of the same old rhetoric.

    • Erik Lambert

      Thank you Thompson. I’ve learned through experience to ignore the “noise” as football players like to put it. I always try to take different perspectives on the team in order to get the best possible view of their ceiling and their floor.

      There is no question Jones has the athleticism for middle linebacker, not to mention the length. He can take on blocker and fill gaps to make tackles. My issue is I don’t think he has the ability adjust the defense on the field and get teammates lined up properly which would be a responsibility of his.