When I look at the Chicago Bears 2013 defense I see three major problems.
1) The front four isn't generating a pass rush.
2) They are missing a lot of tackles.
3) Injuries have robbed the unit of some talent.
There are other issues for sure, but if those first two problems were fixed, then all the other minor problems would go away. I'd venture that if the first two problems were fixed, that the injuries wouldn't even be that big a deal either.
If the front four could pressure the quarterback, the back end of the defense wouldn't spend so much time covering receivers. The Bears are a zone based defense, and if you give any QB enough time, he'll pick apart a zone. The Tampa 2 scheme is predicated on the defensive line getting after the quarterback, and for the most part they aren't getting it done this year.
Corey Wootton is playing out of position inside at tackle. Shea McClellin is playing too much, and he's not able to get to the QB when he's fresh. Julius Peppers doesn't seem like Julius Peppers. Stephen Paea is playing good thus far, but he's been dinged up, and he's not getting to the quarterback much either.
Chicago defensive line coach Mike Phair is in his 3rd season with the Bears, and he was mentored by D-Line guru Rod Marinelli his first two. His assistant is 3 time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Michael Sinclair, who has nine years of coaching experience under his belt. I'm sure a lot of what was taught in years past, is still being taught today, but the players aren't performing.
I saw it floated that the d-line is running some new stunts, and that may be the reason they aren't getting pressure. Really? Are they getting pressure when the stunts are off? Maybe they're being given some new stunts because they aren't doing squat in the first place.
Losing 3-tech DT Henry Melton, and then Nate Collins to injured reserve does hurt, but there should be enough talent on the d-line to make up for those losses. I don't think anyone expected the Bears to be entering their bye week with only four sacks from the front four. That's 31st in the NFL, that's pathetic, and that's on the players.
You could blame some of the missed tackles on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that limits contact in practice, but I think that's a cop out. All 32 NFL teams are playing by the same rules, and the Bears are 31st in missed tackles on the year. Only the Washington Redskins have more than the Bears, and we just saw first hand how bad that defense is. Washington has 66 missed tackles, the Bears are at 65, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are at 64. That is some pretty crappy company the Bears are in.
Is Mel Tucker teaching some newfangled tackling technique that has the Bears suddenly struggling? Was Lovie Smith's teams better tacklers because of coaching?
From Pro Football Focus.
Add 10 more missed tackles to the Bears season tally with three of them being for their highest graded player on the day Lance Briggs. They are up to 65 on the year after missing 85 throughout the whole of 2012.
That was after the Washington game, and Briggs, for as solid a year that he was having, actually leads all players in the NFL with 15 missed tackles. Blame that on Tucker, I dare you.
The safety play has been another stinking point for the '13 season, but again I go back to the pass rush. If the safeties weren't covering receivers so long, would they be performing so bad?
Sticking with PFF for their grades, Major Wright and Chis Conte are the 84th and 77th graded safeties respectively so far this year. Wright is at -15.7 and Conte is at -6.9. Between the two of them, they only have one positively graded game (green) on the year, and that was from Conte against the Giants.
In 2012, when the pass rush was performing much better, Wright was their 23rd graded safety with a +5.1, and Conte was at number 56 with a -2.0. Yeah Conte wasn't outstanding in 2012, but he only had three negative (red) games out of 16 last year, the same number as Wright. The two young safeties were expected to take another step in play this year, but the overall play from the D is holding them back.
Are there some technique issues, you betcha, but these two have had the same position coach for their entire NFL career. Jon Hoke was retained from the old regime. Is Hoke teaching different technique, or are the players just getting a bit sloppy in their reads and keys?
Is the 2013 Chicago Bears defense failing because of a scheme problem, or are the players not playing up to par?
Last night on Chicago's WSCR 670am, during their film room segment, former NFL player Matt Bowen talked about the Bears having the correct defensive play call on, but the players not being in the correct gap. As we all know, the Bears run a one gap defense, and not being in your assigned gap spells trouble. On the winning touchdown by the Redskins, the cut back lane was available because the Bears backside defender didn't attack his gap.
Was he coached to attack the gap? I'd wager he was.
Mel Tucker has picked his spots to blitz, and the Bears have five sacks from the linebackers. But blitzing with a Tampa 2 team to generate a pass rush is counterproductive. The blitz might get home from time to time, but you do it too much and you're bound to get burned.
I think most experts thought the Bears defense would slip a little, after all it was Mel Tucker calling Lovie Smith's defense. And not only was Lovie gone, but Marinelli and Brian Urlacher too. That's a big leadership void, and a lot of experience missing, but it's not as though the cupboard was bare.
A feeling out process was expected by Tucker and the players, but to be ranked 26th in yards allowed and 28th in both points allowed and 3rd down percentage is unacceptable.
Most of the core of the defense is still in place from the last few years, when their Tampa 2 scheme was successful. So the scheme obviously works. Which poses the question; If the players were playing better, would there be any discussion of Mel Tucker getting a pink slip?
I would expect both Tucker and head coach Marc Trestman to tinker with some stuff on the bye week, so we may see some changes on November 4th against the Packers. Then again, they can make as many changes as they deem necessary, but if the players don't execute, would it really matter?
Now it's your turn. You tell me how this is Mel Tucker's fault, and I'm looking for a coaching point or a specific scheme issue you've had with his play calls. And please don't bring the 'change to a 3-4 argument', because that's not a realistic option for the 2013 season.
More from Windy City Gridiron:
- The Bears Den: October 23, 2013 - Week 8 news and notes
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- NFL Power Rankings: Chicago Bears dropping down again
- Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins report card
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- The Bears Den: October 22, 2013 - Week 8 news and notes
- Chicago Bears snap count breakdown vs the Washington Redskins