If you claim to be an avid fan of the Chicago Bears, recipe then you absolutely must have the 411 on the Bears defense each and every season. Other NFL fans can get away with knowing just enough about their QB and a few token running backs and wide receivers to breeze through cocktail parties and small talk with clients. But as a Bears fan, it’s required to know just as much, or perhaps even more about the D than the headline grabbing offense.
While everyone this year is buzzing about the revamped Trestmanfied offense, besides Urlacher’s departure, there haven’t been too many rumblings about what to expect on the other side of the ball. That’s because the Bears defense is as reliable as sh**ty winters in Chicago: you know they are going to show up, stick around and pester you for their normally scheduled time.
After their incredible 7-1 start to the season last year, the Bears petered out during the second half going 3-5 and missing the playoffs, again. While not all of the blame can be attributed to the offense, let’s just say the Bears D also ran out of steam after a ridiculous first half that left fans in a euphoric state.
In the first seven games of 2012, the Bears D had six interceptions returned for touchdowns, an NFL record. In their putrid second half to the season, they were only able to muster up two more. Not bad by any means, but after putting up seven earlier in the season, two was a total disappointment.
But let’s not live in the past, shall we…let’s focus on the future – and the future of the Bears D is good. Notice I didn’t say GREAT. Minus an Urlacher, a few aging vets, a new defensive coordinator, and an unproven rookie on the line, I’m choosing GOOD not GREAT. Let’s break it down by position.
DEFENSIVE POSITIONS AND PLAYERS TO KNOW:
Position: Defensive End
Starters: Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin
Backups: Cornelius Washington, Cheta Ozougwu
The 411: When you have a veteran like Peppers – a guy that is given the option to rest during the preseason, then you know there is stability in this critical QB sacking, pressure delivering position. Peppers, who just inked a new contract with the Bears to free up salary cap space (can you say HUMBLE DUDE?) had a huge 2012 season with 39 tackles and 11.5 sacks and at age 34 shows no signs of slowing down.
Keep in mind though that Peppers is one of the highest paid Bears on the team – he’s heading into his fourth year of his six-year, $84 million contract. So, one could say he’s earning his paycheck.
Shea McClellin is entering his second full season with the Bears and as the #1 draft pick in 2012 – the first year of the Bears new GM Phil Emery, people are expecting big things out of this beefy blonde.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Starters: Henry Melton, Stephen Paea
Backups: Nate Collins, Zach Minter
The 411: Melton, by far the biggest name and most outspoken of the group, missed the majority of the preseason due to injury and was replaced by Nate Collins who proved there is plenty of depth to this position. However, anyone that has paid attention to Melton’s rise over the last few seasons knows that this 300 lb. linemen is only getting better with time.
Melton had six sacks last season and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Melton is already talking a big game about the upcoming season. If he can stay healthy, expect big things out of the Melton and Paea combo out of the middle.
Starters: Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic, James Anderson
Backups: D.J. Williams, Khaseem Greene, Blake Costanzo
The 411: Did you hear? Brian Urlacher retired this offseason! Seriously though, enough with the Urlacher peanut gallery. It’s bad enough that Urlacher is now a FOX analyst, but the obsession with what Urlacher thinks is painfully annoying and getting worse each day. If you thought the media’s Ditka fascination was overkill, just wait.
We now have #54’s grunting voice on every media outlet and we haven’t even started the regular season. Ladies, prepare yourself to be bombarded by what “Urlacher thinks” or “Urlacher said” all season long.
With Urlacher physically off the field, the big job of middle linebacker falls on none other than a ROOKIE – yep, you read that right, Florida Gator, Jon Bostic. If you paid any attention to the Bears preseason you remember Bostic’s huge hit on San Diego Charger’s WR Mike Willie. There was no call on the play, that looked legal, but the NFL felt differently and charged the rookie $21K. Welcome to the NFL, Jon!
For a rookie to make any squad is damn impressive, but for Bostic to take the reigns as middle linebacker from beloved #54 – OH MY. Bostic is one of the biggest names on the Bears D heading into the regular season and will be under a lot of pressure to fill the middle LB position with zero experience in the NFL. Bostic will split the MLB position with D.J Williams in the start of the season with both guys vying for more time on the field.
Lance Briggs will assume the leadership role that Urlacher left behind and will continue to be one of the most feared, decorated, polite, well-spoken, and sexy linebackers in the NFL.
Position: “The Secondary” – Cornerbacks and Safeties
Cornerback starters: Charles “Peanut” Tillman, Tim Jennings
Backups: Isaiah Frey, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis, C.J. Wilson
Of all the benchwarmers on this squad, the backup cornerbacks will feel the pain the most. With two of the best corners in the league in Tillman and Jennings, both coming off record seasons – it’s doubtful we’ll see much of these other guys.
Peanut Tillman defies time – at 32 years old, the Chicago native is entering his eleventh season as a Bear and pulled off his best season in 2012 with 10 forced fumbles, three interceptions and three touchdowns.
Tillman is known for punching the ball out of the ball carrier’s hands and has mastered the pick six. One of the coolest and most pleasant guys on the squad, Tillman is becoming the “new” but really “old” face of the defense. Love this guy.
Not to overlook Tim Jennings with all the Peanut-love. Jennings is a force of his own with nine interceptions in the 2012 season. Jennings stands at 5’8″, one of the smallest guys on the squad and definitely shortest corners in the league, Jennings still manages to cover some of the tallest receivers in the league – with attitude.
Starters: Major Wright, Chris Conte
Backups: Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters
The 411: Any player with the name Major Wright should be easy enough to recognize but after the 2012 season Wright is coming off of, he’s definitely one to have on your radar. With four interceptions last season, this stocky and stealthy dude is a key reason why the Bears ranked 4th last season in fewest points allowed.
Ah, Chris Conte. Let’s end on a high note here. By far, one of the cutest, and most elgible Bears on the roster, this quiet but mischievous 24-year old SoCal native flies under the radar but definitely should not go unnoticed. Looks aside, this tatted up bad boy has battled with staying healthy in the past but will be looking to add to his two interceptions he had last season.
We HAMed Conte last season and will most likely do it agin this year. Read our HAM profile of this sexy safety HERE.
Defensive Coordinator: Mel Tucker
The 411: After Rod Marinelli announced he would not return to the Bears after Lovie Smith was fired, the Bears turned to veteran Mel Tucker. Tucker spent the last five seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Browns and the Jaguars.
So there you have it ladies. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” and I do believe that applies to the Bears defense. Yes, Urlacher is gone, but other than that, the stealthy and reliable Bears D should be back with a vengeance this season. Let’s just hope they aren’t working double-time this year and picking up the slack for the offense. If the new offense clicks under Trestman, as many are expecting it to do, then the defense will be left to doing what they do best: destroying offenses.