Many people blame the Chicago Bears woes on Kyle Orton’s anemic arm. Whereas they have a reasonable argument, I would argue in his defense that he wasn’t the one calling the plays to run the ball on every 2nd-and-10, and to throw a pass in the flat on 3rd-and-7 or longer.
But that argument is for another day.
The biggest issue that the Bears face, in my opinion, is the pressure they can’t seem to apply on the opposing teams quarterback. And, the fact that the secondary couldn’t seem to stop any teams passing offense.
But first, we will deal with the front seven on defense.
Last year, they averaged less than two sacks per game, totaling only 28 on the season. That was good enough for 24th in the NFL.
This year, they are going to have to do better. They aren’t the same Monsters of the Midway they used to be, and they are going to need as much help as they can get to stop teams from throwing the ball all over the field on them.
With the addition of Rod Marinelli, the Bears are hoping to turn back the clocks, at least to 2006, when they had 40 sacks, and were constantly hounding the opposing teams quarterback. But that season was more about the turnovers the Bears caused than the pressure the line got on the quarterback. But, I digress.
With Marinelli’s track record of building attacks that net outstanding sack numbers (during his six seasons with Tampa Bay, the Bucs led the NFL in sacks), Bears fans can expect to see a much higher number than 28 this season. And the Bears are going to need to put up a higher number than that to be successful.
I do not believe the Bears need to lead the league in sacks to get back to the Super Bowl, but they just need to put pressure on the offense, and force them into more turnovers, which was the staple of the Bears defense in the past, under Lovie Smith.
Most people believe turnovers are more luck than anything, which can be true, but you aren’t near or at the top every year by dumb luck.
The one thing the Bears did so well in 2006 was force fumbles on the quarterback. They had 20 fumble recoveries that season, compared to only 10 last season.
Now, I understand that all of that difference can’t be put on the pressure the line gets, but anyone that watched that 2006 season can attest to what seemed like one quarterback strip per game. And 10 extra possessions in a season can turn into an extra win or two.
In this day and age of statistics, it is easy to overanalyze. But Bears fans do not need to see the numbers to understand that the defensive line and linebackers were, simply, not getting the job done last season.
An interesting statistic I saw was the one for total QB hits per pass. That is how many times a Bears defender hit the QB on a passing play. In 2006, the Bears' percentage was 14.8 percent. Last year, it was 12.4 percent. That is a big difference when you are talking some 300-400 plays.
If the Bears can creep back up to that 14 percent marker, I think that they will work their way back into causing more turnovers, and also causing more three and outs, and help them win the field position battle, which was another factor in some of the games they lost last season.
There are a ton of factors that go into winning a football game, and putting pressure on the quarterback to make a hurried pass, or to throw the ball away can be the start of it all.
Going into this season, the Bears have added more depth to their defense, with the draft picks of Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton, and the free agent signing of Pisa Tinoisamoa.
The play of the line is most important, seeing as how it was the line that allowed the linebacking corps to play more free and open in previous seasons, which allowed them to make more plays on the ball.
Last season, Alex Brown led the team with six sacks. Adewale Ogunleye and Tommie Harris both had five, and Mark Anderson was disappointing with only one. In hurries, Ogunleye led the team with 16, Brown had 11, Harris had 7, and Anderson had 6. Those numbers aren’t going to cut it.
If Marinelli can get the line to get more hurries on the quarterback, the sack numbers will come along with them.
But more than just the sacks, the turnovers will come, as well. Not only will the line be able to get their hands on more balls, but they will force the quarterbacks into making rushed decisions, and allow the linebackers and secondary to intercept passes.
It all sounds so easy when you say it out loud, or write it on paper, but it really is as simple as the Bears lineman getting to the quarterback before he throws the ball. And I believe that Rod Marinelli will rework his Tampa Bay magic on the Bears line, and the Bears will be a better defensive team than they were last season.
And they proved that they didn’t need a standout offense to make it to the Super Bowl. As long as they can stop teams from scoring, they can win.