In 2009, the California Golden Bears' biggest struggle defensively was defending the pass. While the team was stellar against the run, then defensive coordinator Bob Gregory's philosophy of bend but don't break proved ineffective.
Against the run the Bears were aggressive, but when it got to 3rd-and-long, the Bears gave up big play after big play. What's even more difficult to swallow was the fact that teams would be throwing to the side of the field because the teams weren't going to be testing one of the best corners in the Pac-10 in Syd'Quan Thompson.
Maybe the best news of the offseason came when Gregory decided to go to greener pastures and left to become a defensive assistant Boise State.
Part of Gregory's problem was the lack of aggressiveness on passing plays. The Bears did not do a good job on the pass rush and gave quarterbacks way too much time to throw down the field.
When there was no pressure on the quarterback, it meant that wide receivers were able to split the weak zone the Bears played and gain huge chunks of yards. It's no wonder the Bears ranked 111th against the pass.
In 2010, the Bears must improve on two things: getting to the quarterback and playing better pass coverage.
Cameron Jordan, the Bears most experienced defensive end will need to replace the production of the departed Tyson Alualu. Ernest Owusu also needs to play a vital role in the pass rush as well.
Chris Coste, Darian Hagan, Sean Cattouse, and Bryant Nnabuife offer the most experience in the secondary and should improve under the direction of Clancy Pendergast, the Bears new defensive coordinator.
What's truly exciting about Pendergast is his ability to teach a young defense how to be aggressive and create turnovers. Last year, Pendergast was the Kansas City Chiefs' defensive coordinator. In the Chiefs' last eight games, the defense forced 19 turnovers. Not bad for one of the youngest groups of defensive players in the NFL.
This year could be an interesting one with the Bears' experienced defensive backs and a new defensive philosophy that could pay huge dividends, especially in the secondary. Also, the pass defense can't get any worse than it did last year!
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