Chicago Bears: First Quarter Report Card

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Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: C-plus

After the first two games, a C-plus grade was about the last possible grade on my mind for the defense, as they allowed 79 points (or 65, if you subtract the kickoff return and pick-six against Arizona). They couldn’t stop the run and they couldn’t cover and they couldn’t really rush the passer. It had the makings of a long season.

They rebounded nicely, though, against Seattle, notching four sacks and allowing only six points in the first half (and would allow only one touchdown in the second half, along with two more field goals), and again played solid football against Oakland in the Week 4 win.

Statistically, the Bears defense is 31st in the league, allowing 31 points per game, but is eighth in total yards allowed, sixth in passing yards allowed and 24th in rush yards allowed. Given their lack of talent at cornerback, the solid ranking against the pass is surprising, but Derek Carr was weak in Week 4 against the Bears, and Aaron Rodgers only threw for about 190 yards against the Bears in Week 1, so the pass defense has actually limited the yards, if not the points, against some good passing teams.

Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

They haven’t forced too many turnovers – four in four games – and only have six sacks, so there’s definite room for improvement in both arenas. Jarvis Jenkins has been a nice surprise in both run defense and rushing the passer, collecting three sacks, while Pernell McPhee has come on in both departments, as well. Jeremiah Ratliff has missed the first four games – three to suspension, one to injury – but the defensive line played so-so ball without him, with Ego Ferguson and Willie Sutton adapting better than expected to the new 3-4 scheme, while Eddie Goldman has improved through only four games at nose tackle.

The linebacking corps, outside of McPhee, and the secondary, are definitely spots that have struggled and are the primary areas for concern going forward. None of the cornerbacks have shown the ability to cover even average wide receivers, while Antrel Rolle, now battling an ankle injury, has looked like a guy who has spent 12 years in the league. About the only bright spot in the secondary is rookie free safety Adrian Amos, who has been great in run support so far and hasn’t been overly exposed in coverage.

While other outside linebackers Sam Acho, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston have been largely ineffective, the inside linebacking corps of Shea McClellin and Christian Jones have been completely absent. Tackles they are making seem to be several yards downfield, and neither is anything special playing the pass. I’m still hopeful that Jones – in his second year playing his second position – can develop into a reliable starter, but I’m ready to let McClellin walk after this season.

On the whole, a C-plus grade for the season would be great, when you consider that it’s a new scheme with lots of guys learning new positions and, in some cases, playing out of position (Houston, Young). The goal is to develop some good young talent, and with Goldman and Amos looking solid early in their rookie campaigns, the defensive rebuild seems to be off to the right start.

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