With the bye week, we’re using the Five Questions column for self-examination as we try to figure this team out. Wednesday we discussed Jay Cutler, Thursday was John Fox, Friday we discussed the offense, and today we’re taking a look at the direction of the defense as a whole.
Jeff Berckes: Okay, let’s flip it around for the defense. The Bears have shown some real flashes but overall have been inconsistent. Do you like the direction this unit is heading and what pieces are missing from making this the unit you'd like it to be?
Ken Mitchell (aka Sab, aka Den Master): I LOVE where the Defense is headed, yet it is really obvious where we still need help. We need DE's, at least 2 more... Unrein is not a long term answer. Ballard has shown flashes and I suspect he will continue to develop, but you can never have too many DE's. Once we get Goldman back and can move Sutton back to depth, which will really help. VERY pleased with Sutton and the job he's done, but he's not a #1 guy. Still, he's the kind of guy you need, a guy who can step in and make plays if injury hits or just rotational DB's? We are in great shape, with all these young guys stepping up. Yes, they are still getting beat some, but we have a lot of very young talent out there and they are flashing all over the place.
Sam Householder: I quite like the direction of the defense. We've finally seen some of their potential with Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and Willie Young all on the field at the same time. Once Eddie Goldman is back that unit has potential to absolutely wreak havoc. However, the back-end of their D still has a lot of questions. Maybe one of their young corners, Cre'von LeBlanc, Jacoby Glenn, Bryce Callahan or Deiondre Hall can develop but that doesn't discount that neither Adrian Amos or Harold Jones-Quartey have shown to be ballhawks. They really don't have a ballhawk in the secondary and I think that's going to hold them back.
EJ Snyder: I like the defense. Fangio has done well tossing young players into the breach and getting them the valuable experience they will need as the new core of his defense moving forward. I believe the injuries to Goldman and McPhee in particular really set the defense on a different course. If those two get (and stay) healthy for the remainder of the year I think we can expect more results like last night. As far as missing pieces I really think the Bears need a top-flight young corner. Porter is on his last legs and not reliable from an injury standpoint. Fuller is a complete question mark after injury and performance concerns. Hall, Callahan, Bausby and LeBlanc are good young corners who can play significant roles on the D moving forward but you need a workhorse who is used to the big game spotlight to plug in and play significant snaps as a starting corner. Another dynamic DE to add pressure opposite Hicks would be a solid choice as well. BONUS: I'd like to see what Fuller could do as a safety for the Bears. He played there in college and was very effective. He's also more physical in run support than many CB's, so the transition to safety (where hard contact is more commonplace) would not be a huge adjustment for him.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: I think Vic Fangio is doing another great job with an undermanned unit. Last year the talent was severely lacking, but this year the injuries have been hurting them. The biggest thing this group needs is to stay healthy, but a close 2nd is a dynamic playmaker at safety, and #3 is a an upgrade at corner. Perhaps Callahan and LeBlanc will continue to improve, but I'd still like to see more talent brought in.
Jeff Berckes: I dig the idea of Fuller at Safety. That makes some real sense if the young CBs step up, but a playmaking safety and/or corner is probably at the top of the shopping list in the offseason either way. Do you guys agree? What about the strength of the front 7?
Robert Zeglinski: Right now, the front seven looks like what everyone largely expected going in. It's deep and talented and comes at you in waves. I'm pleasantly surprised by the emergence of Leonard Floyd and I am also shocked Akiem Hicks has turned out not to be just a regular guy. With Trevathan and Freeman stabilizing this unit at linebacker, McPhee's return to health, and Floyd's continued growth, I'm very excited about what this defense could be even in these last two months. Moving forward, Floyd has to put on weight. If he does, he can be a true superstar. I'd also like to see the Bears really bolster the secondary and add an impact playmaking safety to pair with Adrian Amos. While the secondary has nice young pieces to look forward to in Bryce Callahan and Deiondre' Hall, it's still lacking a little bit.
Jack M Silverstein: Coming into this season, I thought the front 7 (all like 12 of them) would be the talk of the team. We've seen it in flashes and saw more last night. Looking back at 2004, that was a "showing flashes" team. You started to project out and realize, "Okay, linebacker is good, pass rush is pretty good, we might need safety help but corner is locked," etc. The big question is those young guys in the secondary. But there's a lot of promise there. I think we need that one young leader at safety (think Tony Parrish in '98, Mike Brown in 2000, Chris Harris in '05, etc.) to solidify this bunch.
Steven Schweickert: It's not "Lockdown any lead in the fourth quarter" level good, but there are things to be excited about. Leonard Floyd put together a couple good back to back games, Akiem Hicks has been a find, and the defensive backs have been able to put out some solid efforts. But another playmaker in the backfield is a must, especially a ballhawk.
Josh Sunderbruch: I like the way the defense is trending in terms of the pass rush. Guys are rotating and getting involved. However, the Bears have to upgrade at safety. I think there are going to be some interesting free agents out there, but free agency or draft is less important to me than getting the guy on the field. I think the Chiefs are going to have some interesting decisions with their defensive players coming up on free agency, and the Bears should be ready to pounce on any disgruntled defensive playmakers looking to move on.
That is about as much agreement as any question we’re likely to get. Basically, this defense is trending in the right direction. Another year into the rebuild should bring additional talent to the back end of the defense and developmental progress to younger players in the system.
Is there a position that sticks out as the #1 target to you? Is there a player in the draft that has caught your eye that would look particularly good in Navy and Orange?