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

  • Windy Cynic

    The Retreat 2 is dead. Thanks for all the description of a defense in retreat, Boomer.

    No wonder the defense is on the field so long. Giving up the soft zone and converging on the ball can be picked apart methodically.

    And the premise of this “scheme” is pressure from the front four, something we haven’t had in years. Peppers could change that, but counting on Mark Anderson to resurrect himself on the opposite side inspires little confidence. If I were playing the bears, I’d run the ball right down Andersons throat. Gonna miss Alex and Adawele.

    I’m trying to change my name ( opinion), but you’ve got to face reality.

    How fun would it be to see an attacking style of defense? A Bear defense. Think Buddy Ryan would dial up the Retreat 2?

  • City

    To summarize: The Cover-2 only works when you have A) an experienced and FAST middle linebacker, B) Four-man pressure, C) Tough bump and cover corners, and D) veteran safeties who can react quickly. Which goes a LONG way to explaining why the defense was SO bad last year.

    One of the tactics I saw 3-4 defenses employ (usually on 3rd and long) was this technique where the front 7 bunched up randomly, upright, and shifting all around. It was basically a liitle league 5 or 6-man blitz (but you didn’t know which two weren’t coming). And it just made me think of Buddy Ryan. We had ZERO creativity last year on offense and on defense. Martz might bring us some creativity this year on O, but for god’s sake, somebody better be thinking about how to mix up the defense, or our opponents will be in every game, because we won’t be able to stop them from scoring.

    Sure, we’ll look good in the first few games, until the other coaches start to figure us out. That’s when we’ll see how good (or bad) this coaching staff really is…

  • Beardown87

    Pending injuries this is a 13-3 season upcoming mark my words.When was the last time the bears went out and got elite talent to fill the roster especially major needs on defense.The position that everybody knows makes the tampa 2 go is the 3 technique aka Tommie Harris who was double teamed all last year and played thru injury.Now you have Peppers a rush end(one of the games best)commanding that double team, creating the one on one inside matchup the tampa 2 relies on for Harris.And now with his disruption and improved offense under Martz this will be the surprise team this year in the league.

  • Brock D. Anderson

    With the linebacking core the Bears have I cant help but wonder why the Buddy / Bear / 4 – 6 defense wouldn’t be worth looking at

    • WTF?

      What’s a 4-6 defense? You mean the ’46′ defense named for Doug Plank? ANd good cover corners aren’t requirements – it’s a zone defense, good tacklers are more of a premium.

      • bearfan

        Its not the scheme that matters, its the talent.

  • Brock D. Anderson

    Urlacher / Singletary…..Wilson / Pisa………Marshall / Briggs……..Dent / Peppers……..Mongo / Harris………isn’t the old Bear defense worth considering ?

  • Windy Cynic

    Beardown87 is drinking…. 13-3? Dude, the weekend hasn’t even started and you’re already sloppy. Back off Layer Mayers Kool aid and take Angelo’s rose colored glasses off. Even YOUR analysis has the corners in bump and run…. heck, on my TV screen our corners aren’t even in the picture at the snap!!!!!! And praying to the temple that WAS tommy harris is a pilgrimage only the blind will leap.

    City and Brock have it right, it would be so nice to see us play the line of scrimmage like we were aggressive.

  • Windy Cynic

    My bad, it was City that gave the analysis on the tight coverage of the corners…. dude knows football and knows we don’t play that way, we played scared on our heels.

    Too bad we couldn’t change schemes during the offseason, especially with all the talent we have at linebacker.

    I also wonder why having Peanut learn the FS is such a bad idea. Ball hawk and it frees him up out of coverage (not his strength) to make a play on the ball. Shame we’ve wasted Daniel Mannings athleticism too.

    Developing talent is another shortcomming of the Lovie era.

  • mrbear831

    i think with the pressure of our front four will put this year will make our secondaty flourish.

  • City

    Cynic: lmao on “sloppy already”. You’re right; our corners were constantly backpedaling out of the screen last year. (And on third downs no less!).

    I like Tilman a lot. He’s given up just about every part of his body to play football. And I personally don’t mind the Peanut to FS idea, except for the fact that we just got a bunch of guys who can play safety, and we don’t have enough who can play corner.

    Hey Boomer, this was a good explanation of the Cover-2. Can you write up something like this on Martz’s offense? (If you do, can you add some video showing the Patriots blowing up Warner’s receivers in the Super Bowl against the Rams? On second thought, maybe we could use that video to show people how corners are supposed to play football in this league!)

  • Windy Cynic

    The issue with our scheme is that a technical QB can “take” what we “give” so easily. If that qb is patient enough to dink all day in the open, short zone, there is no time for pressure to concern him. And there’s always someone open when the defense is retreating to it’s zone. MrBears optimism is based on Tommy H finding his form from ’06…

    It’s hard for me to visualize substantially better line play on offense with the same unit because of a coach. It’s also hard to imagine more pressure from a dline unit that gained one superstar and lost two veteran leaders who made most of the plays. Should have bit the bullet on either contract and kept one bookend to balance Peppers. I don’t trust Mark Anderson…

    So much of our hope for this season is time travel to an ’06 form. That was the offseason to really go for it, but the org stood pat and the league passed us by. There is no genie in a bottle to release, she’s gone. Time to find a new bottle (staff).

  • mrbear831

    I think as of now we have the best linebacking core in the leauge bearing any injuries our defense will make a big impact.aside from letting WALE and AB go we have some great young talent waiting for there turn jerron and wooten are lookin to make an impact and a name for them selfs.

  • mrbear831

    last year tommy was playin banged up and seemed to still draw doulble teams w/ the addition of Mr.Peppa tomy should have it easy no IF’S and BUTS.

  • mrbear831

    Major Wright is a THUMPER.This year i dont see anybody runnin his derection hes a solid all around player with good ball skills and instincts and surely will benefit from the front four pressure.(PEPPERS)

  • mrbear831


  • Windy Cynic

    Lovie won’t play or develop Wooten, proven track record with rooks. As for Melton, who could know? Mrbear, pass the smoke dude, you’ve had toooooo much. Next you’ll write that Marinelli ( 0-16) is a genius and will wave his magic wand and make Tommy new again. Maybe we can find Michael Haynes and bring him back or Dusty even!

    Like I wrote before, teams can just load up the run against Mark Anderson and the linebackers will be the first line of defense once they stop retreating and head back for the line of scrimmage.

    One thing we do agree upon is our Lb’s. Nice season to switch to a 3-4, isn’t it. Adams in the middle, Peppers and (?) on the edges and 4 active linebackers roaming sideline to sideline. Now that would be fun, is Cowher rested yet?


    • Boomer

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Wooten had some freak “injury” in the last preseason game so the Bears could effectively Redshirt him to let him fully heal up as they’ve done with countless rookie prospects in recent years. (Melton and Dvoracek come to mind right off the top of my head for D-linemen alone).

  • City

    Holy Crap! Now I KNOW the Bears are going to have a good season: Cuz Peter King just picked us to be LAST in the division (Behind the Lions even!) I don’t think anyone has been worse at picking team performance at the beginning of the year than Peter King.

    So, all bodes well for the Bear Goggles On community! I haven’t felt this optimistic since Beardown87 passed me his bottle of happy hooch!

  • Mike

    We need to sign Bulger and Smiley. Also, rookie Freddie Barnes needs to beat out Rashied Davis on the roster.

    • Boomer

      Anyone but Rashied!

      I am all for Bulger and today’s release of Brett Basanez could be Step 1 to bringing in a vet QB. The only question is whether Bulger would accept a backup role.

      As for Smiley, from everything I’ve heard, the dude’s shoulder is shot. Not sure the Bears need another broke-down O-linemen. Keep an eye on the waiver wire to see if any other vets become available.

  • mrbear831

    3-4 defense is no good for us just cuz of right now i dont see anyone stuffing the middle besides A.Adams and T.Harris does not fit the scheme.Just because we got sum of the best LBS doesnt meen the 3-4 defense will work prefectly now you be smokin sum better stuff than me.Mike i defently agree with you on Barnes beeting out R.Davis.Davis is better suited for a DB.

  • mrbear831

    Last year we were blitzin left and right do to the lack of pressure from our front 4 and thats a known FACT.I can say this Merineli is not much of a fan of blitzn but he will bring sumthin new to the table.(0-16) Lions tell me who dey had besides calvin he just walked in to a BAD BAD Matt Millen personel last time i recall.

  • mrbear831

    so Mr cynic i see you have no great expectations for DIZ yrs squad we got goin.M.Anderson is a situational player hes a pass rusher he will not be da starter.IZZY will be our run stopper aside from T.Harris.

    J.Peppers-A.Adams-T.Harris-I.Idoneje looks like a hell of a front four dont you think OH and mark anderson in passing downs

  • mrbear831

    I hope Ron Rivera is available next year ill take him over B.Cowher any day

    • Boomer

      Seriously? Rivera over a proven Super Bowl winning coach? STOP YOURSELF!

      Besides, I doubt Chico would come back after the way he was sent packing after the Super Bowl.

  • Windy Cynic

    MrBear…. the quality of your smoke shouldn’t inspire fantasy. Ok, maybe.

    I hope your koolaid tastes good and proves accurate, but I fear a Lovie/Jerry extension more than one more bad season.

    Spring cleaning brother MrBear. Not going to happen, but the PURE decision left sullied by money.

  • Spurg Williams

    Back when the Bears made their run to the Super Bowl their defense is what got them there. Lots of aggressive big hitting play makers swarming defensive units getting the job done the old fashioned way one big hit at a time.Those young guys were fun to watch every Sunday because they played hard every down they were hungry very committed, focused and determined. Rex is gone… I forsee great things in the future for the Chicago Bears.

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