The new look Chicago Bears are surrounded by a multitude of questions. One being “How will the new coaching staff and scheme change the Chicago defense?” The Bears have always been defined by their stellar defense, from the 85’ Monsters of the Midway, to the 18’ unit which ranked within the top 3 of all major statistical categories, but entering 2022, they were in new territory, uncertainty. After a disastrous season in which the team finished 6-11 and the defense ranked 22nd by PFF, they were looking for change, looking for a new spark to ignite a previously dormant team. They have found what they believe to be this spark, Matt Eberflus.
A Look into Matt Eberflus
Eberflus enters the head coaching position with over 30 years of experience. Having previously being hired as defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, who in 2020 were ranked as the #1 defense. The Colts sustained this dominance through 2021 as they were the only defense to be ranked in the top 10 in every major category both years. Eberflus coaches with a 4-3 scheme, in heavy contrast to the previous 3-4 scheme which was utilized by the Bears for around a decade. The difference lies in the Outside Linebacker, as within the 4-3, they will be playing as run stoppers and coverage men, whilst in contrast, a 3-4 will have the outside Linebackers rush the passer, leaving the 2 Middle Linebackers alone in coverage. Though it may not seem very different on the surface, in execution it greatly effects the personnel decisions and player roles. 4-3 schemes also tend to cater to Cover 2 defenses, ones in which both safeties play a similar role in protecting the outer deep parts of the field, also being more of a swiss army knife. Whereas, a 3-4 allows for a Cover 3 system to be utilized more often, where a Free Safety will guard the deep middle of the field, and the Strong Safety will drop down to help with the intermediate parts, both positions having clear defined roles, and not as much adaptability, this creates a much more rigid and predictable defense, one that can be easily dissected and game planned for by offensive staffs. A 4-3 defense provides the coaches with more flexibility, as players suited for the scheme will naturally provide that missing adaptive component.
A Look Into Alan Williams
The hire of Alan Williams goes to show the continued interest in the new look defense, he comes in as the former Safeties coach on Eberfluss’ staff in Indianapolis, and with 20+ years of coaching experience. He comes in with one major goal, revitalizing Eddie Jackson’s career.
How will Williams Help the Players?
He formerly played as a true center fielder, only playing between the numbers in the deep middle of the field, this playstyle coupled with his incredible burst and natural knack for the ball lead him to have 6 interceptions and 3 touchdowns, one of the greatest single seasons ever by a safety. But, since then, he has significantly regressed, not having a single interception since 2019. A new defensive coordinator can allow him to expand his role, and not only use his physical gifts, but also mental. A swiss army knife role, akin to Bills Safety Micah Hyde, will give Jackson the opportunity to play in the slot, closer to the ball, whilst still playing in the deep parts of the field. A scheme change greatly impacting a players career is nothing new, take for example, Robert Quinn. Quinn joined the Bears in 2020 coming off one of the best years of his career, with 11.5 sacks playing in the 4-3 Cowboys scheme. The move to the Bears did not geat off to a great start, as even though he started in most games in the 2021 season, he was only able to produce 2 sacks. This sharp decline was attributed to the new defensive scheme, a 3-4, one where he could not play with his hand in the dirt, and had to learn new concepts and plays, but he was determined to do better. After studying the playbook for over a year, Robert Quinn came into 2021 firing on all cylinders, posting a team record 18.5 sacks. The new scheme helped Robert improve, as it catered to his natural speed rushing ability. The same can be done for Eddie Jackson, and many other players like him, the new ideas can help them achieve their potential that may be believed to be lost. A new staff, a new scheme, and a new playbook, these are the factors that will decide the fate of the 2022 Chicago Bears defense.