The Chicago Bears once-vaunted defense is a thing of the past. The dominating units of 2005 & 2006 have been replaced by the 2009 version which has a poor secondary, can not get to the quarterback, and can not get off the field on 3rd downs. By conventional stats, the Bears were: 17th in yards per game, 13th against the pass, 23rd against the run, and 21st in points allowed. They were 15th in yards per play. Pretty much the definition of mediocre. Below is a more detailed look at how this unit performed this past season:
The Chicago Bears defense ranked 27th in 3rd down percentage (41%). Giving up a 1st down on 41% of all 3rd downs, will not get you very far in the NFL. Although, the Colts ranked 31st in the NFL on 3rd downs (45%). Indy also has one of the best offenses in the NFL and one of the best QB's of all time. A great offense can overcome a mediocre defense and vice versa. If you're average on both sides of the ball, just where are you going? The top 3 defenses on 3rd downs (Jets, Eagles, Vikings) all had sub 35% values. In 2005, the Bears were 2nd (32%) & in 2006 they were also 2nd (31%).
Other conventional defensive stats: 35 sacks (ranked 13th), 13 ints (ranked 22nd), 66 passes defensed (ranked 31st), & 15 recovered fumbles (ranked 1st). Wtih 28 total takeaways, the Bears were tied for 12th in the NFL. In 2005 & 2006 the Bears had 34 & 43 takeaways respectively. Musical chairs at safety & a weak pass rush is a really bad combination. "Paging Mr. Peppers, the Bears are on line 1, your free agent jackpot is ready."
According to Football Outsiders, the Bears are 22nd overall in Defense DVOA. 24th vs the pass, 15th vs the run, with a variance of 7.9% (ranked 25th), which means the Bears defense is not consistent; they've had some good games and lots of bad games.
So what does all that mean? The Bears D is below average. They are not getting to the quarterback enough, they can not stop teams on 3rd down, and they are not getting enough interceptions.
Let's dig a little deeper.
According to FO, our defensive line is ranked 19th overall in Adjusted Line Yards (the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive/defensive line based on the following percentages: * Losses: 120% value, * 0-4 Yards: 100% value, * 5-10 Yards: 50% value, * 11+ Yards: 0% value). Basically, they did an average job against the run.
Their Power Success is 64% against them for 15th in the league. On 3rd and 4th down, with less than 2 yards to go, teams are converting 64% of the time they RUN the ball.
Predictably, the Bears D-line is ranked 21st with a 5.9% sack rate. They do not get to the quarterback enough.
Let's dig even deeper on those disappointing Run Defense stats so we can assign some blame. The table excerpt lists the opposing teams success versus the Bears based on where the other team runs the ball. (These runs are from the perspective of the OFFENSE, so a run listed as LEFT TACKLE is actually at the RIGHT Defensive End: Alex Brown.)
The Bears typical defensive alignment is Brown (right DE, over/outside of offense's LT), Adams (NT between offense's LG & C), Tommie (3-Tech or left DT between offense's RG & RT), Ogunleye (left DE over/outside of offense's RT)
First number is adjusted line yards, and the second number is league rank.
Rnk TM LEFT END LEFT TACKLE MID/GUARD RIGHT TACKLE RIGHT END
19 CHI 5.08 yds -- 28th 4.72 yds -- 27th 3.64 yds -- 8th 4.43 yds -- 25th 3.91 yds -- 15th
Overall, the line underperformed, except in runs up the middle; Adams & Harris did a nice job. On runs off-tackle or outside, the ends didn't contribute enough.
The scouting and evaluation website ProFootballFocus.com is a valuable tool (IMO) in evaluating individual performances along the defensive and offensive lines. As with any subjective analysis, take these with a grain of salt.
Defensive Ends: OverallRank PassRushRank RunStopRank Sacks/Hits/Pressures/Tackles
Adewale Ogunleye 49th 22nd 68th 6 / 8 / 25 / 19
Alex Brown 25th 35th 16th 7 / 12 / 20 / 30
Mark Anderson 46th 57th 32nd 3 / 5 / 17 / 22
Julius Peppers 9th 9th 51st 10 / 10 / 33 / 23
Defensive Tackles: OverallRank PassRushRank RunStopRank Sacks/Hits/Pressures/Tackles
Tommie Harris 75th 80th (ugh) 43rd 3 / 5 / 10 / 18
Anthony Adams 29th 45th 22nd 2 / 3 / 8 / 32
Israel Idonije 14th 6th (wow) 47th 2 / 4 / 13 / 11
Marcus Harrison 80th 77th 77th 1 / 3 / 5 / 17
Vince Wilfork 6th 26th 4th 0 / 0 / 9 / 34
So what's the solution to the Bears defensive line issues? Sign Julius Peppers & get Idonije more snaps. Israel played 322 snaps compared to Tommie getting 628, Harrison 596, & Adams 586. Adams is a capable run defender; adding Vince Wilfork would be nice but very expensive. The Bears need Peppers; the rest of the D-line roster will have to do. Playing Idonije more and Harrison a lot less would also be a good start.
The Bears' secondary is another weak spot for this defense. FootballOutsiders.com's defensive statistics has DVOA values and league ranks of how a #1 WR, #2 WR, Other WR, TE, & RB do in the passing game against the defense. (the table below lists yards/game vs. the Bears and league rank)
PassRnk vs. #1 WR vs. #2 WR vs. Other WR vs. TE vs. RB
24th 79.0 yds --20th 41.9 yds --21st 26.9 yds --17th 46.7 yds --10th 37.5 yds --22nd
It's really tough to look at those numbers and see a secondary that's getting it done. They ranked 22nd in interceptions and 31st in passes defensed (see way above). To further the point, here is the secondary breakdown from ProFootballFocus.com (Danieal Manning was listed as a safety):
Safety: OverallRank CoverageRank Tackles/Int/PassesDefensed/QB Rating Against
Payne 69th 56th 36 / 0 / 2 / 58.1
Afalava 71st 55th 42 / 0 / 3 / 123.6
Manning 36th 36th 56 / 1 / 0 / 91.1
Ryan Clark (Pit) 18th 16th 71 / 3 / 4 / 36.2
Corners: OverallRank CoverageRank Tackles/Int/PassesDefensed/QB Rating Against
Tillman 82nd 56th 68 / 2 / 3 / 97.3
Bowman 102nd 98th 57 / 6 / 3 / 76.0
Dunta Robinson (Hou) 98th 60th 54 / 0 / 7 / 99.3
Bowman's horrific numbers here can be traced back to 3 games: 1st meeting vs. Detroit, Cincinnati, & Arizona. His last 6 games don't look so bad. Overall though, there's just not a lot of high quality in the Bears' secondary right now. Free agent to be Ryan Clark would help. Using their 3rd or 4th round pick on a quality ball hawk at safety would also be nice. (Note: Moving Tillman to safety is a bad idea IMO. He has hurt both of his shoulders in his career. He just isn't physically able to hit TE's, RB's, or big WR's the way a safety needs to. Moving him to safety also leaves a HUGE gaping hole at CB.)
If the Bears want to be relevant next season, the defense must improve. As a unit, their pass defense is well below average. They do not generate a consistent pass rush and the safeties (and arguably our corners too) are mediocre at best. Whether in free agency or the draft, Jerry and company have lots of work to do.