The 3 keys to success for the Chicago Bears new defensive scheme

Chicago Bears - Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Bears, Thomas Graham
Chicago Bears – Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports /

Nickel Back is one of the Chicago Bears key positions on defense

During the 2021 season, the Colts’ defense played out of their base 4-3 defense on just 19 percent of snaps. Subbing out their strong side or “SAM” linebacker for an extra defensive back, Eberflus loved to play in his dime “4-2-5” subpackage. Kenny Moore II was a very solid nickel cornerback for Eberflus each of the past three seasons. Posting Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades from 2019-2021 of 75.5, 74.8, and 66.6, Moore II was a key and reliable component of the success of the Colts’ defense.

Last season, the Bears saw several different cornerbacks get their opportunity in the slot. First, NFL journeyman Marqui Christian got the start. Posting a PFF grade of 41.0 and allowing nine receptions on just 11 targets, Christian was a liability whenever he got reps.

After Christian was benched, 2019 sixth-round pick Duke Shelley started four games at nickel. While better than Christian, Shelley was still underwhelming. Grading a 53.5 from PFF and allowing 35 receptions on 46 targets, Shelley isn’t the answer in the slot for Eberflus.

If there is one man inside Halas Hall capable of developing into a reliable starting nickel, it is Thomas Graham Jr. A sixth-round pick out of Oregon in 2021, Graham Jr was high on many scouts’ radar before falling to Chicago in the sixth round.

Showing flashes of potential during his limited starting reps last season, Graham Jr posted a PFF grade of 84.5. After seeing all three of these CBs play, many Chicago Bears fans wondered why Graham Jr wasn’t named the starter sooner. A solid player with a feisty play style, great instincts, and play recognition, Bears fans should keep an eye on Graham Jr in 2022.

Although Thomas Graham Jr has flashed plenty of potential, I don’t think he has proven to be a reliable starting option. Prior to the start of the regular season, finding a proven slot cornerback will be critical for the success of this Bears defense.