We all saw how awful the Chicago Bears defense was last year, so General Manager Ryan Poles spent the off-season trying to correct that by both signing veteran free agents and using high draft picks on defensive players.
When the season started, the defense wasn't much better than what we saw a year ago, but over the last four weeks, the defense has played at a higher level, and it's almost to a point where it is the strength of the team.
During veteran free agency in March, Poles quickly signed linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards. On paper, it was an upgrade over what the Bears had last year at the position. He also signed defensive tackle Andrew Billings, and defensive ends Rasheem Green and DeMarcus Walker. Again, these five players made the unit better on paper, but there was still a long way to go.
The Bears headed into the 2023 Draft hoping to Draft a defensive tackle and a defensive end. They never got the chance to select a pass rusher, as most of the better ones were off the board before the Bears got a chance to pick. Instead, they used their second and third-round picks on defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickins. Both were excellent pickups and will be a strong part of the Bears DLine going forward. Dexter, in particular, shows improvement every week.
Once the Bears got to camp, they felt they still needed a legitimate pass rusher as they didn't have one on the roster. Early in camp, the Bears were finally able to get a deal done with free agent Yannick Ngakoue, who has been a very consistent pass rusher throughout his career,
Still, when the season started, the defense was struggling. One of the main reasons was injuries. Key players along the defensive line and in the secondary were missing time because of injuries. The unit as a whole has still yet to play a game together as LB Tremaine Edmunds remains out with a knee injury,
The final piece to the puzzle was when Poles traded with Washington for defensive end Montez Sweat. Sweat, who was in the final year of his contract, was due to hit free agency in March, and the Commanders were not going to be able to pay him. It was a prudent deal for the Bears because he alone made the DLine much better.
Earlier in the season, Ngakoue was playing well, but since then, teams have concentrated on stopping him. The addition of Sweat not only frees up Ngakoue but the defensive tackles as well. Over the last two games, the pass rush has been extremely better.
The DLine was not the only area that needed help/fixing. For several games, the Bears have been playing with a majority of backups in the secondary because of injuries. Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker and Eddie Jackson all missed time because of injury. All are back healthy now, and the continuity the Bears were hoping to have early in the season on defense is finally here.
Another part of the equation is that many of the starters have never played with each other before this year. The front seven is entirely different than it was a year ago. It takes time and practice for players to learn how to play together as a unit. That all seems to be happening now. Granted, using Carolina as a measuring stick isn't much, but the improvement has been slowly happening week by week.
Now, if they can only stay healthy.