Are the Bears' Defense too old? Yes... and no

Jonathan Daniel

It's been easy to say this season that the Bears' defense is too old, but that's not entirely accurate.

Chicago Tribune writer Fred Mitchell made a strangely-timed point about the Bears' defense just ahead of the Bears-Rams game last weekend, which was included in the Weekend Den.  Said Fred:

...the artificial surface at the Edward Jones Dome could become an equalizer and call into question the overall team speed of the aging, beat-up Bears versus the younger, quicker Rams.

That's been the story all season on this side of the ball, and who could argue with that?

A quick look at the players starting or expected to get in the rotation for that game shows that:

Only two of the starting defense were aged 30 or over (Julius Peppers, 33, James Anderson, turned 30 in late September).  Tim Jennings is 29 (turns 30 on Xmas Eve); Zack Bowman just turned 29.

Of the remaining players on defense, Khaseem Greene (24), David Bass (23), Jon Bostic (22) are rookies and the others are Landon Cohen (27), Corey Wootton (26), Major Wright (25), Cheta Ozougwu (25), Shea McClellin (24), Christian Tupou (24), Chris Conte (24) and Isaiah Frey (23).  The three missing starting defensive tackle rotation aren't exactly geriatric, either (Henry Melton, 27; Stephen Paea, 25; Nate Collins, 25).  Aside from Melton and Cohen, are all on their rookie contract or equivalent.

Whatever else the cause of the many problems we saw on defense on Sunday, a blanket statement of "legs too old" doesn't seem to fit.

Cris Collinsworth made a much more salient point regarding the decline of the defense:

Typically, it's when you go through the major changeover and you knew it was going to happen to this defense eventually. They really relied on a core of 4 older players

... and that "the Bears may need to commit to new and younger defensive players, especially with critical players like Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman not getting any younger."

The fourth of the older core he refers to was Brian Urlacher, who is already gone and there's a real possibility that, by the time next season rolls around, only one will be left.  Should that happen - and especially if only one of James Anderson or D.J. Williams returns - then, barring free agent pickups and assuming GM Phil Emery reloads in the draft, the vast majority of the defensive corps will be no older than in their mid-twenties.  Let's hope the stars of tomorrow step up to replace the stars of yesterday.

(Also, I'm afraid the article pic doesn't come in hi-res.)

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