State in ’08: Chicago Bears Defense

We’re counting down opening weekend with a look at the Chicago Bears’ 2008 units, culminating with a complete overview of the season with predictions on Friday.  Today, we look at the 2008 Chicago Bears defense.

Hard to believe we’re just two years removed from the dominant defense in the NFL in 2006.  Let’s start by comparing the opening day starting units of the 2006 and 2008 squads:

2006:

DE  Alex Brown
DT  Tommie Harris
DT  Ian Scott
DE  Adawale Ogunelye
WLB Lance Briggs
MLB Brian Urlacher
SLB Hunter Hillenmeyer
CB  Nathan Vasher
SS  Mike Brown
FS  Chris Harris
CB  Charles Tillman

Nickel:  Ricky Manning, Jr.

2008:

DE  Alex Brown
DT  Tommie Harris
DT  Dusty Dvoracek
DE  Adawale Ogunelye
WLB Lance Briggs
MLB Brian Urlacher
SLB Hunter Hillenmeyer
CB  Nathan Vasher
SS  Kevin Payne
FS  Mike Brown
CB  Charles Tillman

Nickel:  Danieal Manning

Major differences?  Far from it.  I’d say that several of the pieces (Dvorcek vs. Scott and Payne vs. Harris) have the potential to be better than their 2006 counterparts.  So how is it that this similar unit dropped from a fifth overall ranking in 2006 to 28th overall in 2007?

Granted, we left out the 2007 regular starters, and many pieces were missing for much of the year in 2007.  Mike Brown and Dusty Dvoracek missed 15 1/2 games.  Clearly, the 2008 defense more closely resembles the 2006 unit, subtracting Adam Archuleta and Mark Anderson from starting roles for which they ended up not being suited.

We might predict that the 2008 Chicago Bears defense will snap right back into 2006 form since so many of the pieces are the same, and other pieces are better.  But then why did the starting defense generally get steamrolled in the 2008 preseason?  We would begin to buy into defensive coordinator Bob Babich, who replaced the fired Ron Rivera in 2007, being the problem.  But Babich can’t control players missing tackles and taking bad angles, which is what happened the majority of the time last season and during this preseason.

Also, an additional year of wear and tear on the bodies of these players that average five years in the league could explain some of the dropoff.  But if one listened to the coordinator and players during the preseason, the explanation was that fans and observers just don’t understand: other teams showed wrinkles in the preseason while the Bears were purposely not scheming and playing vanilla defense.

But it’s anyone’s guess if there is one more year of dominance in this collective unit.  If there is, it will be a shame to squander it during a year when the Bears probably will rank in the bottom 5 of offenses leaguewide.

Our prediction is, given the very questionable ability of these players to stay healthy, that if they do, there will be a statistical improvement from the Bears defense, and they should be ranked somewhere in the middle of the league’s 32 teams.  That is if the players stay healthy, which guys like Dvorcek and Brown have not.

But nothing in the 2008 preseason has shown to us that the unit will be dominant again.  As fans, we clearly hope we’re wrong.

One Response to “State in ’08: Chicago Bears Defense”

  1. I think more than anything teams have figured out how to exploit Urlachers role in the cover two. When he drops into coverage the middle of the field is open for a ten yard gain all day long whether by run or pass (watch the super bowl tape). In my opinion his athletisism is relied on too much for a LB and allows teams to dink and dunk us down the field.

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