The two primary problems for the Chicago Bears defense in 2013 was stopping the run and sacking the quarterback. Both will be tested early this year.
Frank Gore and Eddie Lacy highlight ground attacks
Last season the Bears defense was serviceable through the first three games. It was around that time when injuries really began to take effect. It started with Henry Melton, followed quickly by Nate Collins, D.J. Williams, Charles Tillman and even Lance Briggs. With such a loss of veteran experience and talent, Chicago saw their run defense nose dive, eventually ending the season allowing over 160 yards per game. So GM Phil Emery formed his entire off-season plan around overhauling the unit from top to bottom, especially up front with new faces like Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Jeremiah Ratliff. Hopes are high these veterans along with an infusion of youth on the depth chart will make the defense bigger and tougher than last year.
The timing is none too soon. The Chicago Bears won’t have time to ease into their schedule as they get set to face some of the better running backs in football right out of the gate. In week two they travel to San Francisco where they must tangle with Pro Bowler Frank Gore and that big 49ers offensive line. Just two weeks later it will be their first of two encounters with rising Green Bay Packers talent Eddie Lacy. That doesn’t even include names like C.J. Spiller, Chris Ivory and DeAngelo Williams who are all respectable runners in their own right. Safe to say the Bears will be thrown into the fire.
Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton among quarterback challenges
The other part of their issues last year were rushing the passer. As a team the Chicago Bears had 31 sacks in 2013, good for dead last in the NFL. Teams can’t hope to win many games with stats like that. It was why Emery invested a lot of money in Allen and Houston and moved Shea McClellin to linebacker. His clear plan is to get as many good rushers on the field at one time as possible. It won’t take long for that plan to go into action.
Like with the running backs, Chicago will have to face a number of quality signal callers in just their first give weeks including All-Pro Aaron Rodgers and two-time Pro Bowler Cam Newton. It’s also important to note Colin Kaepernick, who shredded them back in 2012 in a 32-7 rout. All three quarterbacks have key things in common. They big, mobile and feature powerful arms. Rendering them ineffective will take a complete effort from the front seven to get them on the ground, or at the very least make them uncomfortable.
Passing these tests could set the stage for what the Chicago Bears can become in 2014.