In 2006, the year the Chicago Bears made it to the Super Bowl, the defense was nothing short of amazing.
Everyone knows that the reason the team made it that far was defense and special teams. Rex Grossman was not a huge help (as shown by the game against the Cardinals that season, where the Bears scored 24 points in the 2nd half and won the game, without a single offensive touchdown).
Last year, however, the defense was average at best. There were some major questions with the defensive line, as well as the secondary. And let's face it, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs aren't getting any younger. So with all these things going on, how can the team return to that legendary Monsters of the Midway defense and get back on track to making a legitimate Super Bowl run?
There are no doubt problems with the secondary, but the entire defense's issues can't be blamed solely on the defensive backs.
When the D-line gets pressure, the secondary's job is made that much easier. Think about it. When the Bears had such a dominant defense in 2006, the defensive line was stacked; Mark Anderson, Alex Brown, Israel Idonije, Alfonso Boone, etc. Back then, the Bears had the 3rd-best overall defense in the entire league, allowing only 15.9 points per game.
This last season, however, was a different story. Granted, the team had one amazing standout game against the Detroit Lions, where the pass rush got to Matthew Stafford all game, and he threw four interceptions as the Bears went on to win the game. Other than that, however, there wasn't anything all that special about this defense.
They allowed 22.1 points per game, good for 17th in the league, and 314.4 yards per game, 24th overall. Improving up front is the first way to improve the defense as a whole, and it seems the team is headed in the right direction with the pick of Shea McClellin in the draft, a defensive end/linebacker from Boise State.
The secondary was also a mess last season. Charles Tillman aside, the secondary had holes all over it, making it easy for teams to pass on them. Phil Emery and the Bears' front office once again made an improvement in this particular team area in the offseason.
Sure, Brandon Hardin (strong safety acquired in the draft) had some injury issues at Oregon State, but overall he seems to be a good fit so far in the Bears' defensive system. Adding him at the safety position, plus all of the veteran acquisitions made by the team in free agency at corner, means that with an improved pass rush, this secondary is going to be much better than it was last season.
Finally, the linebacking corps. We all know that Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are getting old. However, don;t count the two out. Urlacher said he's feeling good since his offseason knee surgery, while Briggs has been talking to other players getting ready for this season, most notably stating that he sides with Matt Forte in contract disputes with the Bears.
By expressing that he has his teammates' backs, Briggs is showing that the team is more united than ever, and they will be there for each other throughout the entire season, and in a team sport like football, mental support is just as important as physical ability.
The Bears had an average defense at best last season. However, things seem to be looking up for this year. Everywhere you look on defense, the Bears have made improvements. The team looks healthier, stronger, and more united as a team.
Expect the Chicago Bears to have a much improved defense from the 314.4 yards per game that they allowed last season, and the entire team to improve as a result.