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Five optimistic predictions for the Bears’ defense in 2017

If we can think of positives things for the offense, then we can sure think of some for the defense.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Jerrell Freeman is expected to be the anchor of a potentially dangerous Bears defense.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I took a look at five of my optimistic predictions for the Chicago Bears’ offense. Even though there are a few intruiging pieces on their offense, it isn’t quite up to par with the NFL’s elite. The defense, however, is another story.

On paper, the Bears have one of the better front-sevens in the league. Their secondary is better than it was last year, as well. They have multiple young assets, as well as a handful of trusty veterans. If their defensive starters can stay healthy, then they will make most, if not all, of their games a tight contest. Without further ado, let’s look at my five optimistic predictions for Chicago’s defense, followed by the likeliness of each prediction happening.

Leonard Floyd totals 11 or more sacks

I know this one will make our own Robert Zeglinski happy.

Leonard Floyd proved doubters wrong (myself included) with his seven-sack rookie campaign. Although he missed four games due to injury, he brought the speed and explosiveness off the edge that the Bears had been lacking. Now that he has gained weight while seemingly keeping his speed, he could be in line for a huge sophomore year.

Floyd will be Chicago’s primary pass rusher, especially with Pernell McPhee likely to miss time early in the regular season. The Bears have a strong defensive line, which could put a lot of pressure off of him and bring less double-team blocks his way. The Georgia alum is likely to take a big step forward in his second year.

Likelihood: 8/10

Jerrell Freeman finishes in the top 10 league-wide in tackles

Jerrell Freeman finished with a total of 110 tackles last season, which finished in the top 25 in the league. This may seem impressive on paper, but he easily could’ve ended up with more. He missed four games due to a suspension, but had he played in all 16 games, he was on pace to rack up 147 tackles. To put that in perspective, that would’ve been the fourth most in the NFL.

Unless he gets hurt or gets another suspension, then Freeman should be able to come close to that mark. Expect him to finish in the top 10 in tackles this season.

Likelihood: 8.5/10

Eddie Goldman makes the Pro Bowl

When Eddie Goldman has been healthy, he has arguably been one of the better nose tackles in the league. Staying healthy would give him more of an opportunity to improve as a player. Could that possible improvement be good enough for him to make the Pro Bowl?

Goldman had 5.5 sacks and 22 tackles in his first season with the Bears. He was on track to tally up nearly seven sacks had he stayed healthy last year. For a nose tackle, those are some impressive numbers.

But in there lies the problem. Out of all of the defensive tackles who made the Pro Bowl last year, none of them played in 3-4 defenses. Nose tackles like Goldman don’t make as many flashy plays as 4-3 tackles. Most Pro Bowl voters look for flashy stats, and it’s unlikely that he will put those up. While he could have a breakout year this season, don’t expect it to end with a trip to Orlando.

Likelihood: 3/10

Quintin Demps builds off of his career year

For the most part, Quintin Demps has been a journeyman in his career. This year marks his 10th season in the NFL, but it wasn’t until recently that he started catching fire.

Demps had a career-high six interceptions last year, which was the second-highest total in the league. He also had 55 tackles and nine passes deflected in the 13 games he played. The Bears gave him a three-year deal with the expectations that he can match (or at least come close to) his 2016 performance.

Demps turned 32 this June, so he’s likely nearing the twilight of his career. However, he’s the arguably the best defensive back on Chicago’s roster at the moment. Given the efficiency of their front-seven, opposing quarterbacks are bound to make a handful of bad throws. Although one shouldn’t expect Demps to top six interceptions this year, he may certainly come close to that total.

Likelihood: 7/10

The Bears have a top 10 defense

Considering what Ryan Pace inherited on the defensive side of the ball when he became general manager of the Bears in 2015, it’s surprising how quickly their unit has been able to turn things around. They finished 15th in total defense last season, as well as seventh in pass defense. Their Achilles heel, surprisingly, was their run defense.

With an improved secondary, it’s likely that the Bears can still finish in the top 10 as a pass defense. Having a healthy front-seven, though, will be key to becoming elite. Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston were among those who missed time last year due to injury. Jerrell Freeman also missed four games due to suspension.

The Bears were only 113 total yards away from being the 10th best defense in the league last year. If their key contributors can stay healthy, then they could realistically be a top 10 defense this season.

Likelihood: 8/10