Jul 26, 2013; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebackers Jonathan Bostic (57) and Lance Briggs (55) go through a drill during training camp at Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Yesterday, we looked ahead at the new Chicago Bears offense. Talk about an overhaul. They tore that sucker down to the studs and put together a decent looking rehab. But it’s not just about the appearances, it’s about what’s under the hood, so to speak. We all know what’s under the hood of the Bears defense. The key for Mel Tucker is to keep this group together and maintain the sky-high standard that Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher forged over the last several years.
May 14, 2013; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker during organized team activities at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
It might not be a total overhaul, but the Bears defense is getting more than a tune-up. There are only three new starters, but when you consider that Brian Urlacher has retired, it’s like putting a new engine in an old car.
To take the car analogy a step further, there’s a new driver too as Mel Tucker takes the keys from Lovie Smith. Under Smith, the defense was consistently near the top of the defensive rankings. Since 2004, the Bears ranked outside the Top 5 in takeaways only three times and finished first twice. Compare that to only one time in that span that the offense finished in the top half of the league. That’s why Lovie is on the street rather than with a headset.
If the Bears could have found a way to demote Lovie to defensive coordinator, they would have done it. The plan was to have Rod Marinelli stick around and carry on Lovie’s defense. Marinelli bolted to Dallas and the Bears brought in Mel Tucker to carry the torch.
What we’ve seen out of Tucker so far in the preseason is that he’s going to be a little more aggressive than his predecessor. He’ll continue to run a base 4-3 defense, although he does have experience in a 3-4 scheme as well. Expect to see some wrinkles on the D that you didn’t see under Smith. Tucker is going to bring a variety of blitzes, whether they come from Chris Conte or even Charles Tillman, teams will have a new dimension to contend with.
Personnel-wise, Urlacher, Roach and Idonije are gone, replaced with rookie Jon Bostic, James Anderson and Corey Wootton. Despite what the depth chart tells you, I think Bostic should be playing in the middle of that defense. DJ Williams was brought in as a stopgap, but Bostic has proven in the preseason that he’s up to the task. The rookie has a lot to learn and there will be times when he gets lost in coverage or blows an assignment. But like a young Urlacher, he’ll use his speed and athleticism to make up for his lack of knowledge.
It’s not fair to think that this defense can create the number of takeaways and score the way the 2012 unit did. Opponents are on to Peanut Tillman’s ball punching and I can’t imagine that Tim Jennings leads the league in interceptions again. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Frey will be thrust into an important role, as the nickelback will be tested early and often to see if he’s up to the task.
There is finally some stability at the safety position, with Major Wright and Chris Conte looking like they can button up the back end of the defense. I have high expectations for Wright, who should take his game to the next level under the aggressive Tucker.