Vic Fangio has Chicago Bears Defensive Future Looking Bright
The Chicago Bears are entering their week 14 matchup agains the Washington Redskins with an underwhelming 5-7 mark, but even after a disappointing loss to the San Francisco 49ers it’s hard to categorize the season as a disappointment. Many national pundits projected the Bears to challenge for the top pick in the 2016 draft, but a competent coaching staff has this team competing week in and week out at a reasonable level. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase is the guy that will get all the attention to fill a head coaching vacancy in the off-season, but it’s defensive coordinator Vic Fangio that has the Bears looking like a completely different team than we saw over the last two seasons under Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker.
This isn’t to say Gase has done a poor job. On the contrary, he’s
Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase looks on before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
been very impressive in his own right. Under Gase, the Bears have devised a game plan that has kept Jay Cutler on a short leash, limiting his turnovers and allowing him to put up one of the best seasons of his career. This has been accomplished with Brandon Marshall gone, Alshon Jeffery playing just seven of the team’s 12 games and being less than healthy when he’s on the field. He’s done it with first round pick Kevin White out for the season, Eddie Royal missing significant time and fourth-round pick Jeremy Langford carrying a much heavier load than expected. But Gase has stepped into an offense that ranked as high as second in points per game just two years ago.
Fangio has had to re-make a defense that has been a bottom dweller under Tucker. He has done this by installing a new 3-4 base system in place of the tired Cover-2 Lovie Smith defense that Tucker was forced to run under Trestman. In 2013 Tucker’s defense ranked 30th in the league in total yards and passing yards allowed, 32nd in rushing yards allowed and gave up a dreadful 29.9 points per game. 2014 wasn’t much better when his squad finished the campaign much the same way, ranking 30th in total yards and passing yards allowed, though improved drastically in rushing yards coming in at 17th in the league. The improvement on the rushing side allowed that defense to give up 27.6 points per game, which is better, but still ranked 31st in the league.
Under Fangio this season the Bears defense has become an upper-middle of the pack squad, ranking 12th in total yards. This has come at the expense of the rushing defense, which has fallen back to 29th in the league allowing 127.9 yards per game, but the pass defense has been elite, raking behind only the Broncos seeing opponents put up 210.8 yards per game. This has lead to less scoring, but at 24.2 points allowed per contest, there is still work to be done keeping the opposition out of the endzone.
Fangio has accomplished this with an increased pass rush thanks to some shrewd offseason additions from GM Ryan Pace. Pernell McPhee has been worth every penny the Bears gave him in free agency and the addition of Jarvis Jenkins and Eddie Goldman along with the subtraction of Jeremiah Ratliff and Jared Allen has given Fangio a younger, more system friendly front seven to work with.
Kyle Fuller has shown a great deal of improvement. Ranked
Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) defends San Diego Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman (15) during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
among one of the worst starting corners in football last season, Fuller has risen above his early season struggles and turned himself into a more than serviceable piece in the secondary. Tracy Porter has also emerged as a very useful piece in the Fangio system. 5th round pick Adrian Amos has raised eyebrows with his work at safety and has proven to be one of the great value picks in the 2015 draft.
Still, even with all the roster improvements, Fangio was saddled with a number of players that fit better in the 4-3 Smith defense than his own scheme. This should give fans a great deal of hope about the upward trend we are seeing after another off-season of free agent and draft targets who will be a better fit into what Fangio is trying to do.
From a preparation and development standpoint, Fangio has proven to be the most important addition under the Fox/Pace regime. He is far more likely to stick around past this year than Gase and that gives us an awful lot to look forward to in 2016 and beyond. The Bears will not be going to either the playoffs this year or the top of the draft order, but there’s a whole lot to look forward to with Fangio running the defensive side of the ball.