Recently, we spent some time chatting with Football Outsiders on an array of Chicago Bears topics, specifically focusing on their analysis of what to expect during the 2016 season.
During THIS article, they talked about Jay Cutler, and what Bears fans could expect this upcoming season (and beyond). If you haven't read that one, you might want to.
Up next, we chatted about the running back situation, and whether Jeremy Langford was ready to step in and be the full-time replacement for Matt Forte. Make sure you also check out that article (LINK).
Up next, we talk defense.
WCG: New general manager Ryan Pace is starting his second full season in Chicago, and has been a busy guy since he got to town. Looking at the defensive roster, specifically the front-7, there have been many upgrades. But how confident should the Bears be in the secondary heading into 2016?
Football Outsiders: Well, there is youth here, which is always good. Four of the top five DBs (including nickelback Bryce Callahan) will be 26 or younger in 2016. The Bears played a lot of two-deep coverage last year, which takes pressure off the safeties and puts it on the cornerbacks, so it doesn't matter much who wins the strong safety job opposite Adrian Amos, at least not as much as it would on a lot of other teams.
But Amos and Kyle Fuller were both among the top 25 DBs in broken tackles. Tracy Porter will be 31 this year, so his end is nigh, and there is a reason he has played on five teams in the past five seasons.
The best source for optimism in Chicago's pass coverage is actually at linebacker, where Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan should be worlds better in coverage than Christian Jones and Shea McClellin. Maybe they'll be able to help Chicago against tight ends -- the Bears have ranked in the bottom six in coverage against tight ends in each of the last three seasons.
WCG: Speaking of defense, the pass rush will be a huge key to defensive success. How should the Bears pass rush perform with Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Jonathan Bullard, etc.?
Football Outsiders: Easily the unit most likely to improve for Chicago in 2016. McPhee and Lamarr Houston were both effective last year on a per-snap basis even though both were playing hurt all year long. If both are healthy this year -- and all indications are that they're fine -- they should play much better, and would be one of the league's better pass-rush bookends by themselves.
Then you add Willie Young, who has 16.5 sacks in the past two years in just 1,188 snaps. (J.J. Watt led the league with 17.5 sacks last year, and he played 1,005 snaps for Houston.)
I wouldn't expect much from Jonathan Bullard -- 3-4 linemen don't typically make a lot of plays, and Bullard isn't even guaranteed a starting spot. Leonard Floyd, though, could make an instant impact. At 240 pounds, he'll need to add a lot of weight to his 6-foot-4 frame to be an every-down player, and probably will be limited to sub packages for a year or two in the NFL.
However, our SackSEER projection system said that Floyd was the best edge-rusher in this year's draft class, and his role in 2016 figures to be the guy who hit the field on third-and-10 with the express purpose of putting the quarterback on the ground.
Big thanks to Football Outsiders for spending time answering our questions. Make sure you check out their 2016 FO Almanac HERE.