Anyone who has been a Bears fan for a while knows that their identity lies with their defense. Great defenders have come and gone over the course of Chicago’s history. Now, there are hopes that some of the guys currently on the roster will be able to make a name for themselves. Guys like Eddie Goldman and Jerrell Freeman come to mind when we think of defensive superstars. However, Chicago’s pass rushing group has the potential to be the next “big name(s) on defense” in Chicago. Can they make a name for themselves in 2017?
A few days ago, I did a profile on outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. In that article, I stated that McPhee and the player opposite him, Leonard Floyd, had been considered a top pass rushing duo by some in the media. These people feel that if these two can remain healthy, they can dominant and end up as the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL.
In the previous sentence, I mentioned “healthy.” That seems to be a big buzzword with many players on the Bears’ roster, especially after last season. In 2016, the Bears were decimated by injuries, and that is perhaps the biggest reason why they won only three games. Chicago’s pass rushers were hit especially hard by the “injury bug” limiting their effectiveness.
Now, with good health coming into training camp, they are poised to become one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL. We have all heard a lot about Pernell McPhee’s offseason. He started it with surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He lost about 25 pounds and feels lighter. And that’s good for him (to lose that weight). Not having to carry that much weight means that he may not be injured as often. With the chronic knee injuries that have plagued him in the past, weighing less will help for sure.
Then you have Floyd. Floyd has suffered from a couple of different problems during his short career with the Bears. For one, he is light. He came into last season light, and this may have contributed to some of his training camp woes. He spent a lot of time hurt throughout training camp and was injured early on in the season. His time in and out of the lineup hurt Chicago’s pass rush as well as his development.
Another issue that Floyd had was that he did not know how to tackle properly. Some of his tackling caused him problems, in particular, with concussions. With some education and practice, he should be able to learn how to tackle better and safer which should help keep him in better shape the long run.
Imagine folks, if McPhee and Floyd can stay healthy enough to play in all 16 games next season, they will make a huge difference on defense. The Bears’ pass rush could end up being one of the best in the league, and this can result in better overall defense. That translates into more wins for the team in 2017.
Unfortunately, for Chicago, the depth here isn’t too strong, but there are hopes that the backups can step up and perform well. Two of the Bears’ backups at outside linebacker, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston, have had their struggles. Young plays well in “spurts” going for a while without a sack, and then all the sudden get them in bunches. He’s good, not great, but can fill in nicely.
Houston has struggled with injuries during the past two years and has not been able to finish a full season. If he can stay healthy, the Bears will have another decent backup who can play. But can he stay on the field? That’s a big “if” with him.
All eyes will be on the Bears pass rushers this season. They have a lot of talent but just haven’t had success staying healthy. If these guys can remain healthy for a full season and contribute on a regular basis, then the sky is the limit for the Bears’ defense.
What can we expect if these guys stay healthy? I think that you could easily get a double-digit sack season out of McPhee. I think that Floyd still needs a little bit of work and is still a year away from being “great.” But he should make some big strides this year.
The Bears need these guys to step up. They cannot afford to be without this kind of talent at any point in the season. Anything less and this group will struggle.