Bears by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Chicago Must Improve in 2014
For a team so closely associated with a terrorizing defense, the Chicago Bears took a giant leap forward on offense in 2013 while taking a giant leap backwards on defense.
While the offense was extremely productive, the defense in 2013 was one of their worst the organization has seen in years. Injuries played a large role in its struggles, but they will need to improve in 2014. Despite the offense's ascension last season, there are still areas in which they will need to improve in to be a contender in 2014.
Here are the 2013 stats in which the Chicago Bears need to improve on in 2014.
Yards Per Carry Allowed
In 2011 the Chicago Bears were ninth against the run, giving up 4.0 yards per rush. In 2012 they finished eighth best against the run, giving up 4.2 yards per carry.
In 2013, the wheels fell off Bears rush defense, as it allowed a league worst 5.3 yards per carry, one-half yard more than the Atlanta Falcons.
One of the biggest reasons for the team's decline against the run were season-ending injuries to Henry Melton, Nate Collins and D.J. Williams and the overreliance on no-name defensive tackles like Zach Minter and Landon Cohen to plug up the middle while rookie linebacker Jon Bostic was thrust into a starting role in place of Williams.
The Bears have already made strides in trying to improve their defensive line by re-signing both Collins and Jeremiah Ratliff for 2014 (per ChicagoBears.com) and, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, signing former Oakland Raider defensive end Lamarr Houston on the first day of free agency.
Houston is known as more of a run-stopping end than an elite pass-rusher, and his addition should help solidify the team's run defense.
The team will likely still look to improve the defensive line (as well as the rest of the defense) through the draft and a new regime of players should help the Bears be better against the run in 2014.
During the Bears defensive dominance in the better part of the decade leading up to last year, they were always good at two things: creating turnovers and getting after the quarterback.
After finishing eighth in the league in sacks in 2012 with 41, the Bears finished 2013 with 31 sacks, tied for last with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Following the release of Julius Peppers on Tuesday night (per Chicago Tribune), the team's defensive end spot currently consists of Austen Lane, Trevor Scott, David Bass, Cheta Ozougwu and Cornelius Washington and the newly signed Lamarr Houston. Releasing Peppers gives the team more flexibility under the salary cap but still leaves the team without a bonafide pass-rusher.
More breathing room with the salary cap should open up opportunities for the Bears to find a pass-rusher, even if just for next season. The Bears can still target a pass-rusher in the draft—top prospects Anthony Barr or Kony Ealy should be available in the first round when the Bears pick—but, regardless, they need to be able to get after the quarterback in 2014.
Yards Per Punt
After three years in Chicago and posting a net average of 39.5 yards per punt, Adam Podlesh had one of his worst seasons in 2013.
He averaged just 37.9 yards per punt, worst in the league, and was released by the Bears on March 5, clearing $1.025 million in cap space, according to Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune.
According to general manager Phil Emery during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine, the punter position was going to be a “wide-open competition.”
The team currently has second-year man Tress Way and former Pittsburgh Steeler Drew Butler on its roster to compete for the open position.
From my time spent at training camp last offseason, Way looked like a guy who had a chance at beating out Podlesh for the spot. Butler has NFL experience with 77 career punts and a career 43.8 yards per punt average.
Considering the down year Podlesh had in 2013, both punters appear to be an upgrade heading into 2014.
It has been no secret that during Jay Cutler's tenure in Chicago he has struggled with turnovers, particularly interceptions.
Under the tutelage of Trestman this season, Cutler notched a career high in quarterback rating with a 89.2 but still struggled with interceptions, throwing 12 in 11 games.
Cutler has always been a risk-taking quarterback, not afraid to throw the football down the field or to try and split defenders and force a ball to his wide receivers.
Trestman, along with quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, worked on Cutler's delivery and footwork, and Cutler showed improvement early in the season. At times he still fell back into the trap of forcing the ball and making bad decisions, and he will need to work on becoming a more consistent decision-maker.
Another offseason spent under Trestman, as well as a better understanding of the playbook, should help Cutler improve his ball security and game management abilities. He will always have the mentality that he can make any throw, but if his decision-making gets better in 2014, the sky is the limit for the Bears offense.
Points Allowed Per Game
The Bears ineptness in defending the run and getting after the quarterback are two major areas that the defense needs to address in 2014. If the defense improves in these areas, it will improve in the number of points it surrenders.
In 2013 the Bears allowed the second-most points per game with 29.9, just behind the Minnesota Vikings who allowed 30. In 2012, by contrast, Chicago allowed the third fewest points (17.3).
Injuries riddled the Bears defense in 2013; simply being healthier in 2014, the unit should put a better product on the field.
The addition of defensive end Lamarr Houston and safety Ryan Mundy (per ChicagoBears.com) are steps in the right direction, but the team still has many questions along its defensive line and secondary heading into 2014. Defense will likely be the top priority in the draft, and the Bears will still likely be players in the second wave of free agency.
If the team can add more depth and find some playmakers in free agency and in the draft, it should improve on the number of points allowed per game.