History suggests that the defense of the Chicago Bears will see a regression in some capacity in 2019. I mean, you can’t argue with history, so the narrative is already set about the 2019 Bears’ D.
They’ll still probably be good, but there’s absolutely no way they can be 2018 good.
After being the top defense in the all important DVOA category in 2018, there’s just no way they can do it again. Right?
Well, in the last few years we’ve seen both the Broncos and Seahawks repeat as DVOA defensive leaders, and I’d say the talent in Chicago is just as good as what those two teams had.
People say that taking the ball away is mostly luck and there’s no way the Bears can come close to the 36 takeaways they picked up in 2018. Right?
Wrong. Did you realize that the Bears AVERAGED 34.4 takeaways a year for the nine seasons that Lovie Smith was running the Bears’ D? Talent plus a sound scheme can lead to takeaways.
The Bears were also relatively healthy a year ago, so the odds of them staying healthy again are slim. Right?
I guess. But did you realize the Bears were among the league leaders in games lost due to injury during the three years John Fox was head coach of the Bears. What are the odds of one team being crushed by injuries for three straight years? I’d say the Bears are due some luck in the other direction in 2019.
When a defense takes a step back, there’s usually talent deficit that occurs from one season to the other. Either via losing players to retirement or free agency, or from players simply giving way to Father Time. The 2019 version of the Bears only lost two players to free agency, Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan, and there isn’t anyone on the D that is over the hill.
I’ll address the departures first.
Amos was their strong safety and Callahan the nickelback. Both were good players in Vic Fangio’s scheme a year ago, and both will be missed. But let’s not act like either isn’t replaceable.
Amos is a fundamentally sound box safety that hasn’t been very proficient in taking the ball away. In run support, he’s above average, but as a pass defender, he’s average. Callahan was a talented slot corner that had injury issues every year, and while he was a good fit for what the Bears wanted to do, the Bears have shown a knack for identifying nickelbacks the last few years.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took less money from the Bears as a way to jump start his career and he’ll fill in for Amos next to All-Pro Eddie Jackson. Clinton-Dix was a Pro Bowler in 2016, but the last couple of years his play hasn’t been noteworthy. He’s on a one year prove it deal in 2019 and I think he does just that.
Buster Skrine was signed to play the nickel, and while a bit handsy the last few years, he’s also never played with the loads of talent the Bears will have around him. Skrine is also one of only three primary Bear defenders that aren’t still in their twenties. He, Akiem Hicks, and Prince Amukamara are all 30-years old, and neither have shown signs of declining.
So with the starting 11 (plus the nickel) all young or in their prime, who is going to regress?
The scheme is different with Chuck Pagano replacing Fangio, but we aren’t talking about some inexperienced first timer. We’re talking about a man that has been coaching football since 1984. Pagano will bring some more aggressiveness and the last time he coordinated a D he increased their numbers across the board.
Here are my individual statistical projections for sacks, quarterback hits, interceptions, passes defended, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and tackles for loss for the 12 primary starters and the first defensive lineman off the bench.
OLB) Khalil Mack: 19 sacks, 27 QBH, 4 PD, 6 FF, 2 FR, 21 TFL - Pro Bowl, 1st Team All-Pro
OLB) Leonard Floyd: 10 sacks, 14 QBH, 1 Int, 4 PD, 1 FF, 12 TFL
ILB) Danny Trevathan: 1 sack, 4 QBH, 1 Int, 3 PD, 1 FF, 2 FR, 4 TFL
ILB) Roquan Smith: 9 sacks, 11 QBH, 5 PD, 2 FF, 2 FR, 9 TFL - Pro Bowl, 1st Team All-Pro
DE) Akiem Hicks: 7 sacks, 15 QBH, 2 PD, 2 FF, 1 FR, 14 TFL - Pro Bowl
NT) Eddie Goldman: 2 sacks, 4 QBH, 1 FF, 5 TFL
DE) Bilal Nichols: 5 sacks, 7 QBH, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 5 TFL
CB) Kyle Fuller: 5 Ints, 20 PD, 1 FF, 2 TFL - Pro Bowl, 2nd Team All-Pro
S) Eddie Jackson: 2 sacks, 3 QBH, 6 Ints, 18 PD, 1 FF, 1FR, 1 TFL - Pro Bowl, 1st Team All-Pro
S) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: 1 sack, 2 QBH, 3 Ints, 10 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TFL
CB) Prince Amukamara: 4 Ints, 15 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 TFL - Pro Bowl
NB) Buster Skrine: 2 sacks, 4 QBH, 2 Ints, 12 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 TFL
DL) Roy Robertson-Harris: 4 sacks, 12 QBH, 6 PD, 1 FF, 4 TFL