For a long time, the Bears strength has been their defense. This season is no different. Even though they have allowed more yards and made less impact plays than in the past, they are one of the best scoring defenses in the league. Here are the defensive midseason grades for the Chicago Bears.
Defensive Line: B
The front of the Bears defensive unit is likely its greatest weakness on defense.
In late July, nose tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. This made the Bears defensive line much more bleak, and forced Bilal Nichols to move from defensive end to the nose tackle position. Although Nichols is a very solid player, his natural position is not nose tackle. The Bears run defense has been less impressive because of it.
They are allowing 4.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 15th in the NFL. They have also allowed the 16th most total rushing yards. These average statistics would most likely be better if Eddie Goldman had not opted out.
However, the defensive line has done a good job getting to the quarterback. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has been especially able to do so. He ranks 9th in quarterback hits, has 3.5 sacks and eight hurries.
Overall, the defensive line is pretty good, but it is not on the same level as the rest of the defense.
The Bears linebacking unit is one of the best in all of football. With Khalil Mack on the outside as an edge rusher and Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan in the middle, they are a force to be reckoned with.
This season, they have all performed very well. Khalil Mack is looking like his usual self, with 6.5 sacks and 8 hurries. His 6.5 sacks ranks as the fourth most in the NFL. He has made plenty of impact plays, and looks dominant every time he steps onto the field.
Meanwhile, Roquan Smith is having the best season of his young career. He has the fifth most tackles in the league, the third most tackles for loss and the second most solo tackles. Smith is proving that he is one of the best linebackers in coverage as well. He has the third most passes defensed by a linebacker and has only allowed a 64.1 passer rating when thrown to.
Danny Trevathan has also proven his worth in tackling, missing only 3.8 percent of tackles this season. However, Trevathan has not been great in coverage, allowing a 109.6 passer rating when thrown to.
As great as the linebacker corps has been this year for Chicago, they could also be put to blame for the average run defense this season. That is the main reason why they do not receive a higher grade.
Led by veteran Kyle Fuller, Chicago’s cornerbacks have played very well this season. They have allowed a combined total of only four touchdowns and have been a key part of this stellar defense.
Rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson has been a nice surprise. A second round draft pick out of Utah, he was immediately placed in a starting role. He has made the most of it, as he has the fourth most passes defensed in the NFL and has only allowed a completion percentage of 49 percent. He is an early front runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Veteran nickelback Buster Skrine has also played well. A less recognized player, Skrine has quietly emerged as an above average cornerback. This season, he has the 12th most tackles among cornerbacks and has allowed a 98.4 quarterback passer rating when targeted.
Kyle Fuller, the star of this Bears secondary, has not disappointed from his Pro Bowl reputation. Quarterbacks only have a 50% completion percentage and 62.5 passer rating when throwing at Fuller. He has also shown his physicality, laying out several hard hits and consistently making important, impressive tackles.
The Bears safeties have been solid this year, although not dominant.
Star safety Eddie Jackson has shown his tackling prowess, with a total of 49 tackles. He has only missed 10.9 percent of tackle opportunities. However, he has not been as effective in coverage. He has allowed a 78.3 percent completion percentage when thrown to and a passer rating of 105.8.
Tashaun Gipson, the other starting safety for the Bears, has been an even more effective tackler. He has 43 tackles and has only missed 4.4% of his tackle opportunities. Gipson has not been great in coverage either, albeit better than Jackson. He has allowed a 101.7 passer rating when thrown to and has given up three of the teams seven passing touchdowns allowed.
Despite their struggles in coverage, Jackson and Gipson have proven to be some of the Bears biggest playmakers on defense. Eddie Jackson has one defensive touchdown, but would have had three if it weren’t for questionable defensive penalties. Meanwhile, Gipson leads the team in interceptions with two.
Chicago’s safeties have proven to be effective tacklers and playmakers this season, but are flawed in coverage.
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