Bears not getting impact plays from front 7 despite offseason investment

The Chicago Bears’ first, third, fourth and fifth highest-paid free agents this offseason play in the front seven, part of general manager Ryan Poles’ overhaul of the defensive front.

They’ve combined for zero takeaways and one sack.

Part of the “it’s only three games, but it’s been really bad” dissection of the Bears has to include the defensive line and linebackers, one of the few groups on the team that is actually healthy but doesn’t have the game-changing plays to show for it.

Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards and defensive ends DeMarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue are some of the highest-paid players on the team. Add Day 2 draft picks Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens, and there was no question what the point of emphasis was on defense.

But the results have been minimal. Here’s how bad the Bears are at a few key defensive categories involving pressuring the quarterback and getting off the field.

Stat Total Rank




3rd down %



QB hits



Blitz %



Pressure %



The message after Week 1 was the Bears have to be better on third down. It was the same thing in Week 2 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got off to a hot start on third down. The Kansas City Chiefs did a lot of their damage on first and second down, leading to easier third downs, but the Bears still rarely capitalized.

Everything starts with the pass rush, especially in this scheme that relies on the front four. Sure, the Bears have faced some mobile quarterbacks, and just played maybe the best to ever do it, but the pressure numbers are way too low.

“We’ve got to keep rushing together,” defensive tackle Justin Jones said after Sunday’s loss. “A lot of guys were hurt this training camp and guys are just getting back and getting healthy. Keeping rushing together with the guys that haven’t been there and stuff like that and putting together a rush plan that everybody can benefit from. Biggest thing for us is to keep working and keep getting better.”

There is something to be said about this group needing some time. Walker missed most of camp and has talked about his ramp-up after a calf injury. Ngakoue missed time, too, and his pressure rate has been solid the past two games.

But they’re not getting home, and they’re not getting hits on the quarterback. That’s allowing opposing receivers to find soft spots in the zone, and injuries in the secondary aren’t helping, either.

Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 110.9 against the Bears, the fourth highest in the league. They’re averaging 8.7 yards per attempt, third highest in the NFL.

This is also accounting for the rookie defensive tackles, Dexter and Pickens, needing time to get comfortable. Dexter flashed a few times against Tampa, but it’s not consistent enough yet.

The defensive line entered the season as the team’s weakest unit despite the offseason additions. There’s reason to believe it can get better with time, and that could begin Sunday. The Denver Broncos gave up 12 QB hits to the Miami Dolphins and 14 to the Washington Commanders.

When the Bears spent $50 million guaranteed on Edmunds, they did so to get a playmaker, someone who could get his hands on the football more than Roquan Smith did.

Edwards got nearly $8 million guaranteed to also be an impact player. This was a serious upgrade. Here are the numbers thus far, along with strongside linebacker Jack Sanborn.

Player Tkl TFL PD Stuffs

Tremaine Edmunds





T.J. Edwards





Jack Sanborn





Only one Bear has forced a fumble this season — cornerback Jaylon Johnson, and the ball went out of bounds. Sanborn and safety Quindell Johnson have the only interceptions, both off Chiefs backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Edwards is in the top 20 in tackles for no gain, but otherwise, statistically, he and Edmunds are simply racking up tackles. A lot of that can be attributed to the struggles in front of them, but the Bears knew what they were constructing. Coach Matt Eberflus said he sees signs of his ’backers being in the right spot to make the plays they’re paid to make.

“Just keep playing the defense, just keep playing the defense,” he said Monday. “They’re right there. They’re right in position where they need to be. Those guys have been making a lot of plays. It’s more about the strip attempts that we have to have when we’re going to tackle. I think we might be missing that some. We’ve got to do a great job with that. But they’re in position to make some plays, and we’re gonna get them in position.”

In Baltimore, Roquan Smith has 1 1/2 sacks, two tackles for loss, two QB hits and one pass defensed, for those of you keeping score at home.


Were there signs that Justin Fields and the Bears offense would be this bad?

Edwards also thinks they’re close, but the details have to be sharper.

“I think there have been times where we have had opportunities and we just happened to be off on our alignment or some things like that,” he said. “But we’re close. And you can feel it in the defense, that that is our goal. We want to make those plays. We want to take the ball away. We want to create and steal a possession. And it’s going to take us all on the practice field every day to get that done.”

There are a handful of plays from the loss to the Chiefs that showed the deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball for the Bears. Players as good as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are going to take advantage.

One third-down play to highlight came in the third quarter. The game is out of hand at this point, but the Bears have an opportunity to get off the field.

Eberflus dialed up a blitz with Edmunds, who started the play over center before looping around the left tackle.

1. MVS

The Bears switched to man defense on this play, and nickel corner Josh Blackwell lost his footing, allowing receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to get open. But look how clean Mahomes’ pocket is as he makes the throw. Edmunds is still 2-3 yards away.

2. MVS

Now, Edmunds did go to the locker room with an undisclosed injury. Maybe he wasn’t at 100 percent. But while he does come free, the rush in itself just doesn’t seem to have the twitch or urgency needed considering who is throwing the football.

From behind the play, we see that none of the defensive linemen was able to get to Mahomes. Walker had a good rush and may have been held. Ngakoue gets close, but it’s too late.

3. MVS

And here’s how things compound for the Bears defense — even if Blackwell stayed with Valdes-Scantling, and even if someone gets more pressure on Mahomes, look at No. 1 — running back, Jerick McKinnon, who’s wide open as the checkdown option, likely because of some coverage gaffe.

4. MVS

If there’s a stretch for the defense to get right, it’s over the next month. They start with the woeful Broncos, before heading to play Washington, and the Commanders are giving up the most sacks per play in the league.

The Las Vegas Raiders, who come to Soldier Field in October, lead the league with six interceptions, followed by Washington. The Minnesota Vikings, who are in town on Oct. 15, lead the league with seven lost fumbles.



Is it time for the Bears to think about Justin Fields and their future at QB?

When the Bears offense has been bad in recent years (and decades), they can usually lean on the defense to take the ball away. Until Gabbert entered the game, the Bears had zero on the season. The defense isn’t doing anything to help the offense, and the highest-paid additions have yet to make the expected impact.

Considering the opponents coming to town, and how healthy the front seven is compared with the rest of the team, there are no more excuses for this group.

(Top photo: Cooper Neill / Getty Images)

“The Football 100,” the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Preorder it here.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top