Which Chicago Bears are a good fit for Vic Fangio’s scheme?

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With the Chicago Bears bringing in a new coaching staff this year, there will be significant changes on both sides of the ball in personnel and scheme. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio historically has run a vastly different scheme than the one run by the Bears under both Lovie Smith and recent DC Mel Tucker. I covered Fangio’s resume and the details of his defensive scheme in posts last week. If he is planning on implementing the same scheme in Chicago, then he is probably going to need some new players at multiple positions.

I broke down the roster below at every defensive position in Fangio’s scheme and analyzed which players could be a fit and which will probably be playing elsewhere in 2015. I also listed the players Fangio used the last few years at each position, so you have an idea what type and size of player Fangio prefers. Of course Fangio could adapt his scheme to better fit the Bears current roster, but considering how bad the Bears defense has been and how much success Fangio had had with his scheme the last few years, it probably makes more sense to implement the scheme and replace the players that don’t fit.

Nose tackle (#90): Quinton Dial (6’5, 318), Ian Williams (6’1, 309), Isaac Sopoaga (6’2, 321)

In Fangio’s scheme, the NT (#90 above) lines up off the center’s shoulder on the strong-side (same side as TE) and is only responsible for the gap in front of him. This requires a different type of NT as opposed to the classic space-eater used in standard 3-4 schemes. The NT in Fangio’s scheme needs to have the quickness to beat interior lineman off the snap and the strength to hold his ground against double-teams in the run game.

Good Fit

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Jay Ratliff (6’4, 303): Ideally the NT in Fangio’s scheme is disruptive enough that he draws attention from both the guard and center to free up one of the interior LBs to make plays. Ratliff made four Pro Bowls playing a similar position in Wade Phillips’ 1-gap under scheme with the Cowboys. At 33 Ratliff isn’t the same player he was under Phillips, but is coming off his best season since 2011. He was dominant at times last year and ended up averaging .6 sacks per game which was the best rate of his career. If he can stay healthy, Ratliff could be a force in the middle of the Bears line next year, but they will need a solid backup to keep Ratliff fresh.


Stephen Paea (6’1, 300): He’s an unrestricted free agent, so may not be back next season. Paea is not an ideal fit for a 3-4 scheme, but is a much better fit in Fangio’s hybrid scheme than in a normal 3-4 alignment. He would still be better off in a 4-3 and that may play in his decision on who to sign with in free agency. Playing time could be another issue with both Ratliff and Paea not good fits for the other two D-line positions, they would be looking at a 50/50 split at best at NT. That could be a great situation for the Bears as both players are injury prone and a platoon would keep them fresh and lessen their chance for injury. Paea is coming off the best season of his career and may be looking for a full-time role. All thing considered I would be surprised if Paea comes back to the Bears, but his elite strength and underrated quickness would play very well at the NT position if he does. Keeping Paea would mean less playing time for Ego Ferguson, so how the Bears handle Paea’s free agency could be a good indicator on how management views Ferguson’s potential.

Ego Ferguson (6’3, 315): Has the size and athleticism to be disruptive at NT, but needs to get much stronger to hold up in the run game. Ferguson ended up on his backside way too often his rookie season, notably the Dallas game when he got pancaked three times in the first half and then spent the 2nd half on the bench. He was considered a developmental prospect when drafted, so it’s way too early to give up on Ferguson based on one season of tape. He still has plenty of potential and hopefully Fangio can unlock it.

Bad Fit

Brandon Dunn (6’3, 300): The undrafted free agent played in almost 30% of the defensive snaps in three of the Bears last four games. He’s basically the opposite of Ferguson, Dunn has the strength to hold up in the run game and free up the ILBs to make plays, but doesn’t have the athleticism to generate any pressure inside. Dunn was a favorite of D-line coach Clint Hurtt, who is no longer with the Bears, and may be following him out of town soon.