My second and final part of this series will be focusing on the Defense; a side of the ball that's clearly in win now mode. The Bears could use a couple key pieces to make another run at a super bowl title. Impact players like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers will all be back, to go along with some solid veterans in Charles Tillman, Izzy Idonijie, Anthony Adams and Pisa Tinoisamoa. While Bears defense might have a two to three year starting window, the talent behind the veterans indicates to fans that the defensive side of the ball will be in for some rough times once the window is shut. Angelo and his brass have their work cut out for them for the next three years trying to keep this defense from falling off, while at the same time putting respectable pieces around his biggest investment Jay Cutler.
The 2nd and final part of this series will focus on Lovie Smith defensive personnel, and see where it stands compared to the other 3 teams in the division.
Packers are in tremendous shape at Nose Tackle if Jolly comes back to a team already with a dominate force in the middle in Raji. Lions are in great shape also at the position where all they need is to add some depth behind Suh and Williams. Vikings don't have much depth behind Pat and Kevin Williams, but Kevin Williams is still one of the best defensive tackles in the league, and Letroy Guion keeps Pat Williams fresh. The Bears are not in bad shape at DT, but they also not in great shape. Missing is that disruptive 3 technique that makes defensive ends life much easier. Henry Melton is a fine talent, but is a situational lineman and Tommie Harris might not be in the team's future plans. Anthony Adams and Matt Toeina are a solid nose tackle rotation, but they need more help from the 3 technique. I say the Bears are in alright standing here, and are one key piece away from being in good to great standing.
Defensive Ends: Bears (Julius Peppers 31 & Israel Idonije 30) Vikings (Jared Allen & Ray Edwards) Packers (Cullen Jenkins & Ryan Pickett) Lions (Kyle Vanden Bosch & Cliff Avril)
The NFC North has arguably the best defensive line tandems in the conference. At the same time, each team is an injury short of disaster because of no proven depth behind them. This is where both Cory Wootten and Henry Melton come to mind as the Bears need Corey Wootton to take that next step in his progression from a two stance defensive rusher to a three point stance rusher. Henry Melton has the tools to become a situational pass rusher on the end, but coaches need to give him more opportunities. The Bears are in good shape at the defensive end position as Peppers has about 3 years left until he declines. Idonije was a surprise this season and proven to be a solid starting DE, but the young talent behind Peppers and Idonije needs to start producing at a high level next season.
Linebackers: Bears Packers Vikings Lions
When it comes to Linebackers, the Bears are the class of the division. The Bears have two pro bowl caliber LB's, and 2 solid starting LB's. Brian Iwuh is a capable back-up that can fill in for a game or two, and Hunter Hillenmeyer if he doesn't retire is a solid back-up middle linebacker. Next off-season would probably be the year where they try to find Urlacher's replacement and groom him behind the vet. Other than that, the Bears don't have to worry about linebacker positions for a while as most of the guys are 30 and under. When it comes that time to address the linebacker positions, fans shouldn't be worried about Angelo finding talent as he has proven over the years he can.
Cornerbacks: Packers (Tramon Williams 27 & Sam Shields 23) Vikings (Antonie Winfield 33 & Cedric Griffin 28) Bears (Charles Tillman 29 & Tim Jennings 27) Lions (Chris Houston & Nathan Vasher)
This is a position that the Bears need to find some solid talent at starting this off-season. Tillman will be turning 30 next week, and while he did just come off maybe his best season as a Bear, you wonder how many years he has left in the tank with all the injuries he has sustain over the years. Zack Bowman and Tim Jennings are clearly not the answer at starter, and D.J. Moore is best at the NB position. Joshua Moore is a guy that I am really high on as scouts claim that he's strength is man to man coverage. The idea for the Bears might be to draft a CB to compete for a starting spot or develop behind Tillman for a year or two.
Safeties: Packers (Nick Collins 27 & Morgan Burnett 22) Bears (Chris Harris 28 & Daniel Manning 28) Lions (Louis Delmas 23 & Amari Spievey 22) Vikings (Madieu Williams 29 & Husain Abdullah 25)
Bears did a good job last year addressing the FS position in the draft with Major Wright. Now they need Wright to take that next step this year and win a starting spot at either safety position. If Wright turns out to be a pretty solid pick, the Bears will be in pretty good shape at the position. The perfect scenario moving forward into the future is Wright and Manning as your starting safeties because it gives you pretty athletic tandem in a division that has Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford at QB. The Bears are in okay to good shape at this position if they can retain Manning.
Football experts and Bears fans are right when they say this team has a 2 to 3 year window with this defense. When I look deeper into the roster, the team is an explosive 3 technique DT and a very solid CB away from getting over the hump and winning the Super Bowl. They still have players playing at a high level at key positions in this tampa 2 scheme, but are just missing those two positions that's keeping them back from taking that next step. It will be a tricky process for Angelo to keep adding talent to the defense when at the same time he has to build around his franchise QB. It will be interesting to see where this franchise is at under Jerry Angelo in 2 years.