A Closer Look at the Bears Defense

A lot has been made about Lovie Smith’s Cover-2 or Tampa-2 defense and how it’s going the way of the dinosaur.  That seemed really clear last season as team after team picked the Bears’ defense apart.  During the offseason, Jerry and Lovie have invested tons of resources to rebuild the defense.  Was it the scheme?  Was it the personnel?  National Football Post’s Matthew Bowen, who played under Lovie Smith, gets all X’s and O’s and breaks down the Tampa-2.

See  how he breaks down the responsibilities of each player after the jump:

As Bowen points out, the basic premise is simple – bring pressure with your front four and divide up the rest of the field with everyone else in coverage.  [I  augment Bowen's breakdown with the respective Bears in brackets.]

DE [Julius Peppers]: Rush with contain principles. Force the QB to step up into the pocket.
N[Marcus Harrison]: Rush A-gap weak with a two-way go on the offensive guard.
T [Tommie Harris}: TEX (Tackle/End stunt) with the DE. Contain Rush. Tackle stunts first.
DE [Mark Anderson]: TEX (Tackle/End stunt) with T. Scoop to strong side “B gap.”
WLB [Lance Briggs]: Read run/pass. Drop to weak hook, a depth of 10-12 yards between numbers and hash marks. Slide with the eyes of the QB.
MLB [Brian Urlacher] : Read run/pass. Open strong and run with any inside vertical route by No. 2. If no vertical by No. 2, drop to a depth of 15 yards and react to any underneath throw.
SLB [Nick Roach]: Read run/pass. Drop to strong hook, a depth of 10-12 yards between the numbers and the hash. Slide with the eyes of the QB.
C [Peanut Tillman]: Jam and re-route No. 1 to force an inside release. Drop to a depth of 12 yards with zone technique (back to the sideline) to protect the deep 7 (or flag) route. Rally to any ball thrown to the flat.
SS [Chris Harris]: Read release of No. 1 for run/pass key. Drop to a depth of 15-18 yards at your landmark — top of the numbers. Protect the 9 (or fade) route and react to any inside vertical. Verses two verticals, get depth and break downhill on the throw.
C [Zack Bowman]: Jam and re-route No. 1 to force an inside release. Drop to a depth of 12 yards with zone technique (back to the sideline) to protect the deep 7 (or flag) route. Rally to any ball thrown to the flat.
FS [Major Wright]: Read release of No. 1 for run/pass key. Drop to a depth of 15-18 yards at your landmark — top of the numbers. Protect the 9 (or fade) route by No.1 and react to any inside vertical.

There are really three keys to the defense

  1. Bring pressure with the front four.  That’s where $90+ million to Julius Peppers comes in.
  2. The middle linebacker.  He’s got to read run and then drop to cover the deep middle.  That’s a lot of ground to cover.  When Urlacher went down in Week 1, the Bears lost the speed and athleticism to get back into that drop.  That’s why teams were able to pick the Bears apart down the middle and up the seams last year.
  3. Bowen talks about the corners who need to press to force inside release of the wide receivers.  If they don’t get this jam, it puts added pressure on the safeties to widen their coverage areas.   When was the last time you saw Bears corners pressing and getting a good jam?  Maybe that’s part of why our safeties struggled?

Will the additions of Julius Peppers, Chris Harris and Major Wright and the return of a healthy Brian Urlacher be enough to get the defense back to Super Bowl form?

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Tags: Chris Harris Cover 2 Julius Peppers Lovie Smith Major Wright Tampa 2

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