Chicago Bears: Will short-handed defense rebound in week eight?

Trevis Gipson, bears

With the Chicago Bears returning home in week eight to take on the San Francisco 49ers, there is a high likelihood that Chicago is without pass rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Add in a groin injury for defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and Chicago’s defense could be missing three integral pieces from its front seven.

If Hicks, Mack, and Quinn don’t suit up for the Bears, Chicago will need to rely on depth to beat San Francisco, who is averaging 22.5 points per game, good for 19th in the NFL. While the Bears defense allowed just three points in the second half of week 7 in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another noteworthy stat from week 7 is that Chicago also failed to record a sack for the first time all season.

The Bears are hoping to redeem themselves in a big way on Sunday afternoon. A win against the 49ers on the heels of a solid defensive performance before what is expected to be a tough road matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers would be a confidence booster heading into the bye week.

“You know, that’s part of this NFL, is, it’s a long season and that was week seven and obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted from a team perspective and certainly from a defensive perspective,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai via the Bears official YouTube channel. “But having said that, there’s also some things that we can build off of, off that tape. And there’s some things of swarm and particularly in the second half where the guys play with tremendous energy and good technique and fundamentals that we’re going to continue to build on.”

Chicago will need to get creative when it comes to putting together a good enough game plan. Can cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor forget a shaky performance where both defensive backs allowed a combined four passing touchdowns while the front seven gets back to sacking quarterback? A win could certainly alter the trajectory of the Bears season.

Chicago Bears: Biggest questions at the MLB position

With Chicago Bears training camp around the corner, middle linebacker is a position that has remained relatively stable since 2018. The middle of Chicago’s defense will feature linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan once again, while Christian Jones, Josh Woods, Austin Calitro, and Joel Iyiegbuniwe will provide depth.

Smith, despite being snubbed from the Pro Bowl last season will enter training camp as the unquestioned leader of the group. A year after totaling 139 tackles, four sacks, and 18 tackles for loss, Smith will enter year four with a chip on his shoulder. Trevathan is entering year two of a three-year deal signed last offseason, giving Chicago continuity at the position.

As the Bears get ready to report to training camp, what are some questions at the MLB position? Let’s find out.

1) Will a full offseason benefit Trevathan?

Watching 2020 film, it was clear that Trevathan looked noticeably slower over the first six games of the season. Much of this was attributed to the virtual offseason in 2020, limiting on-field work. Entering 2021, with the NFL offseason more normal compared to last year, the hope is that Trevathan shows up to training camp in playing shape and ready to go, especially since the 10-year veteran has played just two full seasons since joining the Bears in 2016.

 

2) Which depth piece will step up?

Gone are the days of Nick Kwiatkoski holding the fort as MLB3 for the Bears. Chicago will need to rely on Jones, Woods, Calitro, and Iyiegbuniwe for depth, creating a four-way competition. Expect the Bears to carry two of the four players mentioned above. Iyiegbuniwe and Woods were on the team last season while Jones spent four seasons with Chicago from 2014-2017. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai will look to emphasize speed and coverage ability at the MLB position, two necessities for an inside linebacker to be successful in the modern NFL.

3) How good will Smith be under Sean Desai?

“A lot of great things,” Smith said on June 15th via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I like Desai a lot. I think it’s going to be very good and he’s going to put us in a lot of good positions, so I’m looking forward to that.”

As we mentioned above, Smith was snubbed from multiple accolades last year, making 2021 an even more intriguing season for the former first-round pick. Desai’s defense will allow players like Smith to play faster, setting the stage for what could be a career year for Smith, continuing his ascension, becoming one of the NFL’s elite off-ball linebackers.

31 questions to Bears camp: What is Desai’s defensive philosophy?

New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Khalil Mack

When the Chicago Bears officially begin training camp at Halas Hall during the final week of July, the Sean Desai era will kickoff as the Bears’ starting defense will be fully present. Players like Roquan Smith, Eddie Jackson, and Tashaun Gipson have praised Desai this offseason, generating excitement among the Bears fanbase.

Desai, a Vic Fangio disciple, continues a trend across the NFL where younger defensive minds continue to deploy more aggressive defensive schemes, something that should benefit a defense that includes players like Khalil Mack.

“I think Sean is one of the brighter young minds in the game so to have him as my defensive coordinator, I definitely understand what he can bring to the table,” Gipson said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And with the talent he got on defense, it’s going to be a beautiful thing to see.”

“A guy who’s going to let us playmakers make plays. And that’s one of the things, he’s not going to handicap nobody on defense,” Gipson said. “I think that with a guy like Sean, you see that everyone gon’ be able to make plays, from the safeties to the corners to the linebackers to the d-line and when you have a defense that’s rich in talent like the Chicago Bears defense, where you got guys capable of changing the game on every level, having a guy like Sean is huge because you have a guy who can truly put every guy in position to make a game-changing play at some point in the game.”

While Chicago’s defense does look older on paper, players like Mack are still in their prime, giving the Bears an opportunity to maximize a defense that many still consider to be the strength of Chicago’s roster.

“The good thing about our teaching philosophies is that we try and make sure guys know multiple spots,” Desai said via the Bears official Youtube page. “That helps us on gameday with the depth and that’s been a philosophy of mine and our defensive staff since the beginning.”

As Chicago gets ready to report to training camp, Desai’s defensive philosophy will be one that allows players to play freely, helping Chicago’s defense to rise to the top.

31 questions to Bears camp: Will Desai maximize defensive talent?

The Chicago Bears opted to promote from within this offseason at the defensive coordinator position, giving Sean Desai the reigns. Desai, who’s been with the Bears organization since 2013 will now be tasked with getting Chicago’s defense back to the top, after two years of statistical regression.

In many ways, one could argue that Chicago’s defense is at a crossroads heading into 2021. Core players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Danny Trevathan are getting older, while younger players like Jaylon Johnson and Roquan Smith continue to emerge, giving Chicago hope for the future.

Desai has been praised by players this offseason, being labeled as a bright, young mind, who’s going to allow playmakers to flourish.

“I think Sean is one of the brighter young minds in the game so to have him as my defensive coordinator, I definitely understand what he can bring to the table,” Safety Tashaun Gipson said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And with the talent he got on defense, it’s going to be a beautiful thing to see.”

Desai has made it clear he’s got a major vision for Chicago’s defense, one that will emphasize physicality, toughness, strength, and playing fast, elements that are essential for top NFL defenses to possess. Talents like Mack, Hicks, and Smith should be given additional opportunities to make plays, putting the Bears offense in a position to succeed.

“The good thing about our teaching philosophies is that we try and make sure guys know multiple spots,” Desai said via the Bears official Youtube page. “That helps us on gameday with the depth and that’s been a philosophy of mine and our defensive staff since the beginning.”

As Chicago continues to prepare for the 2021 season, a major defensive revival seems to be in the cards for Chicago’s defense, especially because a young, innovative mind like Desai has taken the reigns of a defense that many believe can still play at a high level, despite multiple starters above the age of 30.

31 questions for Chicago Bears camp: How good can Jackson/Gipson be?

With the calendar officially having turned to July, we are just weeks away from the Chicago Bears reporting to Halas Hall for training camp. Chicago’s defense will have its third defensive coordinator in four seasons, with Sean Desai set to take the reigns. Desai, who’s mainly been a secondary coach his entire career, is set to have veterans Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson manning the backend of the defense.

With 2021 marking the first time since 2018 that Jackson will have an opportunity to play alongside the same safety for the second consecutive season, many wonder what Gipson and Jackson will accomplish in 2021.

Last season, both safeties combined for 148 tackles and two interceptions in what many considered to be a less aggressive defensive scheme.

“It’s huge, it’s huge, I haven’t played with a safety two years in a row since Adrian Amos,” Jackson said via the Bears official YouTube page. “So to come back and have that chemistry, it’s huge, especially back there. I’m in his head, he’s in my head and the type of athlete that Gip he brings a lot of stuff we can use, me and him together.”

Desai’s scheme will allow both Gipson and Jackson to take a more aggressive approach to the game, giving each player the opportunity to fly around and make plays at will. Expect to see a variety of different defensive coverages and disguises, making life more difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

“The good thing about our teaching philosophies is that we try and make sure guys know multiple spots,” Desai said via the Bears official Youtube page. “That helps us on gameday with the depth and that’s been a philosophy of mine and our defensive staff since the beginning. Those two guys’ relationship is going to grow. For us, that’s what’s going to help us in the backend, when Gip and Bojack are back there and they’re communicating and handling all the coverage assignments, that helps because now they know how each other play.”

Under Desai, it’s fair to expect Chicago to have one of the top safety tandems in the NFL, something that will be needed, especially since Chicago moved on from cornerback Kyle Fuller this offseason, leaving a void in the secondary that will need to be filled by Jackson and Gipson.

 

Tashaun Gipson ready for Chicago Bears defensive turnaround

Entering year four of the Matt Nagy era, Sean Desai will be the Chicago Bears‘ third defensive coordinator in four seasons and tasked with getting the Bears’ defense back to the top. One advantage Desai has over first-year defensive coordinator’s is familiarity with the defense. Having been with Chicago since 2013, Desai has seen the defense built up and perform at a high level.

Chicago will be returning 10 of 11 starters in 2021, including the safety tandem of Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, giving the Bears continuity on the backend of the defense.

“I think Sean is one of the brighter young minds in the game so to have him as my defensive coordinator, I definitely understand what he can bring to the table,” Gipson said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And with the talent he got on defense, it’s going to be a beautiful thing to see.”

While Desai will have his own defensive schemes, there will be some shades of Vic Fangio’s defense, something that will be a key factor in determining how Chicago’s defense performs in 2021, especially considering Fangio’s 2018 defense was the best in the NFL. In order for Desai to really excel, he’ll need to put his players in a position to succeed on any given play.

“A guy who’s going to let us playmakers make plays. And that’s one of the things, he’s not going to handicap nobody on defense,” Gipson said. “I think that with a guy like Sean, you see that everyone gon’ be able to make plays, from the safeties to the corners to the linebackers to the d-line and when you have a defense that’s rich in talent like the Chicago Bears defense, where you got guys capable of changing the game on every level, having a guy like Sean is huge because you have a guy who can truly put every guy in position to make a game-changing play at some point in the game.”

Gipson’s statement is accurate: Playmakers make plays. However, to make plays, playmakers need to be put in positions to succeed, something that is a staple of any great coach. Statistically, Chicago’s defense has regressed in takeaways and sacks over the last two seasons, however, with a more aggressive defensive scheme in 2021, veterans like Gipson should contribute to a defensive resurgence.

Chicago Bears: Top 5 things to be excited about for the 2021 season

Ladies and gentlemen, after what seems like an eternity we have arrived. The offseason is entering rookie training camps, and OTA’s are around the corner. After what I can call an absolute home run of a draft, the Chicago Bears have created a ton of buzz about the 2021 season. Statistically, however, the Bears have the 3rd toughest schedule, according to CBS Sports, with a collective opponent 2020 win rate of .550. The schedule appears to be designed with rookie quarterback Justin Fields in mind, as those crafty heads up at NFL HQ slated a majority of the Bears primetime match-ups towards the latter half of the season. You know, just in case Head Coach Matt Nagy pulls the plug on the Dalton experience and throws Fields into the mix.

With all this being said, this season is shaping up to define the direction of the franchise for the next 3-4 years. I don’t foresee the Bears marching into Sofi Stadium in early February, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of people and developments to watch this season. From returning talents like James Daniel and Eddie Goldman to the continuing development of Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery. This season is sure to excite any fan. Here are the top 5 things to be excited about as a Bears fan heading into the 2021 NFL season. 

#5: The boys are back in town – Linemen win games

When burgeoning talent DT Eddie Goldman announced his decision to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, it felt like being hit by a truck. I imagine that’s what opposing Centers and Guards felt as he tore through offensive lines with ease in 2019. I understand the decision though the game is just that – a game. Personal health and family safety will always be more important. I can only hope Goldman picks up where he left off, completing a key tandem with Akiem Hicks anchoring our rush defense.

Another returner this season is pro-bowl OL utilityman, James Daniel. This one gets me excited. After suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in week 5, Bers fans saw a carousel of line-men attempting to stabilize the front 5. Surprising breakout performances by former practice squad members Alex bars and Sam Mustipher indicate the front three interior linemen positions have both depth and talent on the roster. Daniels’ return also signals a much-needed return to stability. 

Bears GM Ryan Pace clearly made improving the Offensive Line a top priority in the off-season. Bringing in Elijah Wilkinson in Free Agency, re-signing Germain Ifedi, and trading up in the second round to steal Oklahoma State stud Teven Jenkins, while selecting Missouri big man Larry Borom in the 6th. Charles Leno and Bobbie Massie will not be returning to Chicago this season. Honestly, I’m not all that upset about it.

Jenkins will most likely get the starting nod at the left tackle spot. This leaves the Right tackle spot an area for competition. Offensive life coach Juan Castillo told reporters that “Larry Borom will compete with Germain Ifedi at RT, but Ifedi will line up at RT to start the season.” That leaves the rest of us wondering if Daniels lines up at center as he did in 2019, or at guard allowing Sam Mustipher to continue his hot play. Regardless of the endless possibilities on the interior offensive line, it looks stacked. David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen (also returning from injury) are sure to eat up the run game with James Daniel’s return to the line.

#4: This is Desai’s world, we’re just living in it 

There’s a new defensive sheriff in town, and his name is Sean Desai. A branch off the ole’ Vic Fangio tree, Sean Desai is a defensive secondary scheme savant. I love Chuck Pagano, an amazing man with an amazing story. But his secondary schemes did not play well to the secondary talent acquired under the Fangio years. After the 2018 Bears Defense dominated the league, the 2019 & 2020 Bears rewarded fans with a step back in just about every metric.

Under Desai, I strongly think the Bears defense is in store for a return to form. Desai is not only an actual professor, holding a Ph.D. from Temple University and teaching classes at Lake Forrest College, but he also schools offenses with his secondary schemes. Doc Desai’s ability to educate and communicate with players lead to his glowing review from DB Prince Amukamara. As Chicago Bears reporter with the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs reports, “Amukamara credits Desai for the first pick-six of his career.”

Look, I still believe Eddie Jackson is a top 5 safety in the NFL. I hope he lives up to his reputation this year under a defense that will be built on the backs of the Bears secondary. Losing Kyle Fuller may throw a wrench in Desai’s plan, but young products like Jaylon Johnson and Kendel Vildor will continue to establish themselves as dominant forces. In a schedule that features quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Russell Willson, and more. A staunch pass defense will be a necessity if the Bears hope to see success. 

#3: From cubs into Bears – Offensive Prospects 

The 2021 Chicago Bears roster is full of 2nd and 3rd years players poised to become household names.

David Montgomery went on a tear ending the season, with over 100 yards in three out of six games. Finishing the 2020 season with just a hair over 1000 yards, I am confident we will see another 1k yard season in 2021. I’m putting my money around 1400. Expect Monty to continue his elite ability to break open-field tackles. His vision is one of the best in the league and I can’t wait to see him put defenses on notice. 

Darnell Mooney What another mid-round steal for Ryan Pace. This kid is fast, has elite hands, and is first among rookie WR’s in broken tackles according to PFF. Any rookie that buys a Juggs machine with his first paycheck then proceeds on to drop only one pass after being targeted 98 times in a season is good in my book.  His speed and route running abilities will be a feature of this offense as Justin Fields establishes himself as QB1. Mooney has a knack for burning nickel corners and getting behind safeties. Fields has a knack at throwing incredibly accurate deep balls. Let’s hope Jalen Ramsey can keep up this time. 

Anthony Miller — This one is a controversial take, a bit spicy if you will. Miller has every tool needed to be an elite slot in the NFL. He just hasn’t taken the next step. With his career on the line, I think he has every reason to do it this year. There’s valid concern around Miller’s maturity. After his late-game ejection against the Saints, many called for the Bears to ship him off during the season. I think it was a wise decision by the front office to keep Miller on staff. As wide receiver coach Mike Furrey stated, “There’s a small increment in improvement so he’s done great, he’s been in our rooms, no issues.” Drafting speedy slot Dazz Newsome also sends a blunt message to Anthony Miller, saying “we have a replacement, let us know when we need to put him in.”

#2: The Packers? What is going on over there? 

How does it feel to have talent surrounding a big question mark under center? That’s what being a Bears fan has felt like for the past three decades. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want to play in Green Bay, and I don’t blame him. The team is refusing to let him walk, and I don’t blame them. Regardless of what happens, I have to admit this has all been extremely amusing. If Blake Bortles becomes QB1 for the Green Bay Packers, this will be one fun show to watch.  

#1.5: Getting to see live football again

My first live Chicago Bears game was in the 2015 preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs. We got blown out. But seeing Cutler, Jefferies, and Howard live was amazing. It’ll feel even more amazing to see Justin Fields and this talented unit out on the field again. There’s nothing quite like being at a Football game. I can’t wait to go back. 

#1: Fiel- I mean the Rookies. 

Pace’s trade with the New York Giants to move up to pick #11 and snag Justin Fields was the shot of adrenaline the Bears fanbase needed. After two consecutive years of letdowns, it seems like the Front Office has finally started listening to the fans. This was Ryan Pace’s best draft as GM. No contest. Pace was able to steal early-round talent late in the draft with picks like Khalil Herbert, Thomas Graham Jr., and Dazz Newsome. He filled needs in the Offensive Line with Maulers like Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom.

I’m stoked to see Justin Fields on Soldier Field. Also, these UDFA’s are fantastic as well. Charles Snowden, an early-round talent, went undrafted. The 6’7”, 240 lb monster of a man is listed early as a defensive lineman. To all the rookies, if you ever end up reading this. Take a breath. Welcome to the greatest city on Earth. Congratulations, and get ready to play some Bears football. 

Altogether, buckle up Bears fans. Though we may not win a ton of games, this team is poised to turn heads. I haven’t been this excited about a season since, well, honestly I can’t remember! 

The Chicago Bears want versatility on defense in 2021

New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Khalil Mack

As the Chicago Bears head into the 2021 season, one intriguing spot on the roster is the entire defense. Set to have its third defensive coordinator in four seasons, Sean Desai will now attempt to do what his former teacher in Vic Fangio did: Get the Bears back to being dominant. To get back to a dominant level, Desai needs to figure out how to maximize all the talent at his disposal.

Despite being a first-year defensive coordinator, Desai has seen the rise and fall of the Bears defense. The only member on the Bears coaching staff leftover from the Marc Trestman days, Desai saw the defensive overhaul that took place from 2015-2018, the historic Bears 2018 defense, and the regression that ensued in 2019 and 2020.

Now that Desai will command the unit, he’s made clear that his expectations are to be a top defense once again. For the Bears to reach those goals, it’ll be about putting all the pieces together.

“The good thing about our teaching philosophies is that we try and make sure guys know multiple spots,” Desai said via the Bears official Youtube page. “That helps us on gameday with the depth and that’s been a philosophy of mine and our defensive staff since the beginning.”

An advantage that Desai will have compared to last offseason is more practice time on the field, compared to just virtually. With Chicago back at Halas Hall this week, the goal is that players who lost valuable reps last season have an opportunity to prove themselves in training camp.

“Players that want to get better will get better,” Desai said. “We’re going to provide the teaching, resources, and system to help those guys get better. They know what our standards are going to be. They know how we want to practice. They know what the expectation is and that’s going to make everyone better.”

Desai knows how good the Bears defense can perform when every player is fully focused and giving 110 percent. The Bears do have options at cornerback, linebacker, and the defensive line. Add in solid depth across the entire unit and it’s clear that Desai is looking for versatility that will allow players to continue to succeed, which will then benefit the unit as a whole.