Bears’ defense taking hold: ‘Right now we’re just flying.’

Bears defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (55) flourished in Matt Eberflus’ defense with the Colts in 2018-21.

Nam Huh, AP Photos

Asked if the Bears’ new-fangled defense under Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams had made an impression on him, running back Khalil Herbert didn’t hesitate. 

“I’ve got a lot of impressions — especially the linebacker group,” Herbert said. “We have some really athletic linebackers — a lot of guys that can cover and hit and come downhill and hit. Especially from the one-on-ones, seeing the different things they can do in pass pro and us running routes out of the backfield and we try to make them miss in certain drills. We have a really athletic group. The defense as a whole I feel like is going to be really solid.” 

It remains to be seen if Herbert is right (a linebacker corps still without Roquan Smith making an impression is probably not a bad sign.) But as training-camp narratives go, cliche things like hustle, intensity and aggressiveness and putting the right player in the right position tend to be more reliable on defense. Offense relies on precision, timing, chemistry and a quarterback — concepts that are much harder to instill and a weapon that is much harder to develop. Offense is more scheme dependent. Defense is playing football. 

“One thing I’ve understood is that in football, you can talk scheme and that’s fun,” linebacker Nick Morrow said. “I’ve been a part of scheme-heavy defenses. [But] defensively, you have to win with effort. That’s been shown time and time again. Running to the football creates turnovers — punching the ball out, picking it up, recovering. I think effort is definitely No. 1. He’s putting that on his plate for us for sure.” 

So while the Bears’ offense under coordinator Luke Getsy is likely to be a work-in-progress — and perhaps a little messy — early in the 2022 season if not throughout, the Bears’ defense could be a dependable anchor from the start. 

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Working against an offense clearly on training wheels is a big advantage in training camp. And the Bears’ defense, learning a new scheme itself, is feeling pretty good about itself and the chance to hit the ground running in 2022. 

It helps to have two coaches in Eberflus and Alan Williams who think and teach like coordinators — much like the Bears had with Lovie Smith/Rod Marinelli (2009-12) and Vic Fangio/Ed Donatell (2015-18). Eberflus and Williams did the same thing with the Colts in 2018 — taking a nondescript group, adding a talented second-round rookie in linebacker Shaquille Leonard and improving the Colts’ defense from 30th to 10th in points allowed. They know how to teach this defense and get quick results. 

“Absolutely,” said defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, who played for Eberflus with the Colts from 2018-21. “But most importantly, it’s just getting the right guys. …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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