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Do the Bears still have a top 10 defense?

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears have had one of the best defenses in the NFL for several years now. They slipped a bit a year ago, but they still finished in the top half of the league in several statistical categories and ended up ranked in the top 10 in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA ranking.

Most of the usual suspects return for the Bears from a year ago, with the most notable changes being the release of starting corner Kyle Fuller and the return of nose tackle Eddie Goldman. This unit still has plenty of talent, but there are a few older/injury prone players they are counting on, and some question marks surrounding the secondary.

Defensive coordinator Sean Desai bringing the D back to a Vic Fangio style will be a plus for the players, but they’ll still need some luck to get back to their 2018 ways.

Here’s where The Athletic has then ranked heading into the 2021 season.

12. Chicago Bears

The front seven, led by Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, is strong. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman returns after having missed all of last season. And linebacker Roquan Smith is coming off of a career year.

But the Bears have big questions at cornerback after releasing Kyle Fuller. They are counting on Jaylon Johnson to build on his rookie season, but behind him, it gets murky with Desmond Trufant (appeared in 15 games over the past two seasons), Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley.

Sean Desai takes over for Chuck Pagano as a first-time defensive coordinator. Pagano employed split-safety coverages at the fifth-highest rate, and it would be no surprise to see Desai do the same to give Chicago’s cornerbacks some help. The Bears have enough talent to be an above-average defense, but if their corners struggle, it would be no surprise to see them take a step back from where they were last year.

Murky is a nice way to describe Chicago’s options at corner, but I’m including Johnson in that murkiness as well, because he’ll need to prove the shoulder issued that has plagued him for a few years now are behind him. If healthy I believe he has legit CB1 skills, but he needs to remain available to the team each week.

Do you guys think the Bears can end up with a top 10 D in 2021?