By Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63
Upon hiring General Manager Ryan Pace, the Chicago Bears were expected to be overhauled in a rebuild of epic proportions.
It was no surprise that the Bears would develop a young and hungry group of players under the leadership of a competitive and a just as hungry coach in Matt Nagy.
A lengthy endeavor that was supposed to take four years turned out to be a competitive playoff team.
But to the surprise of analysts and fans, the 2018 season was better than expected. With a 12-4 record and the hostile takeover of the NFC North throne, one can only hope the reign of terror once infused from the Monsters of the Midway has returned.
But a recent article on MMQB (Monday morning quarterback) has the Bears defense regressing due to the departure of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, now the head coach of the Denver Broncos. There is no question Fangio has earned that job, but to say that the defense would regress is an absolute insult to the life work of current defensive coach Chuck Pagano.
Not only are the same players of the elite defense of last year returning, but they have added a few players to kick it up a notch. Safety HaHa Clinton-Dix and cornerback Buster Skrine make up the backfield but add rookie CBs Duke Shelley and Stephen Denmark it’s the kind of party that the Bear’s defense love to host.
Now maybe some writers and analysts have forgotten what Pagano said in his first presser after being named the new DC in Chicago. “It (the defense) will be a carryover, coming from a 3-4 system, we are not going to jam square pegs in round holes. There is a ton of talent here – they built one heck of a roster in defense with impact players on all three levels. Like everybody will do everything we can to put them in the best position to win.” With Pagano, it’s about taking the terminology that Fangio used and blending them with his.
And don’t forget, Pagano is well known for his ability to stop opposing teams pass attack. In 2003 Pagano helped the Cleveland Browns tie the franchise record for the fewest passing touchdowns allowed with 13. In 2006, Pagano helped the Oakland Raiders in holding passing yards from 151 per game and 285 total yards per game.
But what he did with the Baltimore Ravens between 2008-2011 drastically improved the pass defense from ranking 21st in passing yards allowed to fourth.
The Bears defense will progress mostly due to the improvement of their defensive backs. The defense was ranked 7th in passing defense, first in rushing defense. This is where Pagano will make his mark; improving the passing attack.
Despite what MMQB author Andy Benoit may think in regards to Pagano’s all blitz attack, Pagano doesn’t want the transition to be a complete overhaul. It will just be a matter of tweaking and improving what players already know and how to make themselves better.
But don’t think that the success of the defense falls all on Pagano. Each player on the defense will have to keep the hunger and drive that took them from last to first in defense.
During the Chicago Bears 100 year celebration, defensive end Khalil Mack was seen getting tips from Hall of Famer DE Richard Dent off in the corner of a room. Fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton and career Bear defensive end Ed O’Bradovich challenged defensive tackle Akeim Hicks to take it to the next level in 2019. In case you didn’t see it, he accepted that challenge.
??Missing football, decided I will do a thread every Sunday on one current or former #Bears player leading up to training camp. This week: Akiem Hicks – the most under appreciated defensive player in the NFL and one of Ryan Pace’s best acquisitions as Bears GM. #NFL ???? pic.twitter.com/PZ2h0DOYx3
— Nick Petro (@PetroTLS) May 12, 2019
To say that the Bears will regress in 2019 based on Fangio’s departure will have to be seen. After Buddy Ryan left the Bears after the 1985 Super Bowl, Vince Tobin took over and helped keep the defense steady. Even though Tobin’s tenure did not match the defensive prowess of the Super Bowl champs, the Chicago Bears defense still held true.
Will the Bears regress in 2019? Maybe. But the last time I checked, Mack, Hicks, Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Jackson, Eddie Goldman, and Kyle Fuller were still on the team. The hunger is still the same and these boys will make sure it stays that way.
Talk Bears with Wanda on Twitter // @WandaW63