If you were to make a list of the most hated sports figures in the city of Chicago, there would be a few Chicago Bears on that list. Pushing for the number one spot would be Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
His hire was met with varying levels of indifference and disappointment. I don't think there were many fans excited when the Bears brought him in. He had never coordinated a top unit but, then again, he never had the type of talent the Bears had. Or so we thought...
His first season coordinating the defense was one of the worst in the history of the franchise. When Bears brass decided to bring him back to run his own system, it angered plenty of fans. The assumption by head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery was that the injuries crippled any chance Tucker had to succeed. Fans didn't like the decision. They wanted heads to roll for the pathetic defense and the two assistants that were axed wasn't enough.
The Bears went out and gave Tucker some new toys to play with on the defensive line, he had a few others return from injury, and again the assumption was that with better and healthier players, the defense would improve.
I think one week is too soon to pass judgement on his new schemes, but the comments from former Bear and current Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Chris Williams seem very damning.
From Laurence Holmes' 24 Hours Later Blog on CBS Chicago.
"We saw they play a pretty predictable front. We knew where they were gonna be at, and they'd let us double team them and rely on linebackers to make plays." - Bills guard Chris Williams on Bears defense
Teams preparing for a 4-3 front, like the one the Bears run, usually have to account for some shifting from the down linemen and from the linebackers. But it's generally an easier front for an offensive line to block in comparison with the 3-4. The Bears have been a one gap defense in the past, meaning each lineman has one gap assignment that he has to penetrate. He has to stay disciplined by not only staying in his gap, but by not over penetrating his gap.
We've heard reports that the Bears planned on incorporating some two gap principles into the scheme this season and it seems that's what was going on against the Bills.
More from Holmes' blog.
While I was on the air last night, I got a phone call during a break from a former NFL player who explained exactly what Williams was talking about. According to him, the Bears were playing a Read 2-gap defense. They're playing the game at the line of scrimmage and allowing the offensive line to dictate the flow. Without gap penetration, the linebackers have to really be aware and then be quick to the ball. The Bears weren't.
If the defensive linemen are playing read and react 2 gap defense, then they will be in position to be doubled more often than if they were attacking a single gap. You need your d-linemen to be stout at the point of attack and not get pushed off their spot. Bears fans think back to the Keith Traylor and Ted Washington defenses of the early 2000's where the d-line kept blockers off of Brian Urlacher. I don't see any linebackers on the Bears with the speed and instincts that Urlacher had.
Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin are still thinking too much to allow their athleticism take over. Lance Briggs looked a step slow yesterday and D.J. Williams isn't exactly known for his quickness in his 11th season.
If it's Mel Tucker's plan to incorporate this style of defense then we can expect some more growing pains as his linebackers learn a new way to play. But how long can the Bears afford to give them?
The offense is ready to win now.
Yes, the three turnovers all led to points on Sunday, and that 2nd Jay Cutler interception is as bad as it gets, but the lack of pass rush and inability to stop the run aided in that loss as well. Even with the three turnovers, the offense still racked up more yards than all but three teams on Sunday.
This team will only go as far as the defense allows them to go and it only gets harder from here on out.
I'm told you should watch out for "traps" and "wham" plays next week against the 49ers, the idea being to leave a defensive lineman unblocked, then hit him from the opposite side as he crashes up field. It should open up big holes.
The San Francisco 49ers not only run a lot of old school trap plays, they also run the read option. And we all have seen how the Bears fare against that. Whether the Bears go one gap or two gap against the Niners, they'll need to trust their keys and fly to the ball.
Passing judgement at 0-1 is too soon, but what about at 0-2?