It’s become abundantly clear that the Chicago Bears are in for a major overhaul on the defense. Bears Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker was gifted an absolute train wreck this season. Players seemed to fall off, have far less motivation (see Julius Peppers), stars went down to injuries, and an overall regression in performance all contributed to a season that was doomed from the start. First-year NFL head coach Marc Trestman had his hands full fixing an anemic offense, but came with all the pieces to fix the puzzle. That’s where Trestman was hoping to focus his energy, instead he had to do more than just manage the defense.
Many are clamoring for Tucker’s head after an abysmal finish to the season which saw the Bears end their season 8-8, gifting the Packers yet another playoff berth, and Bears fans were left feeling cold and heartbroken (regardless of how far the Bears would have gone in the postseason). Instead of the Bears ousting Tucker, they have fired both the Linebackers coach (Tim Tibesar) and Defensive Line coach (Mike Phair). Rightfully so, Kaseem Green and Jon Bostic never seemed to improve during the season. Shea Mcclellin failed to gain any ground after being placed in the wrong position, however the talent is there to be tapped into. The problem with both of these coaches is that draft picks were not gaining any traction in their respective positions. In that way these firings make sense and tell of things to come.
The Bears under Tucker are likely to change schemes as he has run both a 4-3 and 3-4 defense. There are multiple reports that Shea is moving to linebacker (a move I said needed to happen last year after he was drafted). Bostic (and Green for that matter) have a higher ceiling than what they showed this season. It would make a good amount of sense for Tucker to implement some kind of hybrid defense as the traditional defenses are getting stale.
The biggest blunder however is that this team kept Lovie’s defense to begin with. Tucker tried to teach a defense that is not inherently his. Therefore his knowledge and ability to install it is based on secondary information. My biggest question for Tucker is will you make the same mistake? Given the injuries and loss of leadership on the defense it was honestly more than Tucker was equipped to deal with. Nor can you blame him for wanting to keep continuity from the old regime, but that is definitely lost at this point.
Now though its time for Tucker to prove his counterpart, Trestman right after giving him the okay for another round. It’s likely the right move and hopefully the new position coaches can get a little more out of Emery’s draft picks. Switching positions will benefit a few players, and Tucker using his own scheme (evidence of the firings and position changes) could yield some results. Its still not known what the plan is, and its really just speculation at this point, but these moves could pay off.
As for the players, I thought Anderson started off really well, but then again played a big role in the Green Bay loss. D.J Williams, when healthy, looked like he was playing fairly well. I think you could pair Bostic, WIlliams, and Briggs together, making Anderson not as valuable. Mclellin would surely be on the end as a pass rushing linebacker if the Bears switch schemes (highly likely).
The Bears are likely to bring back Chris Conte as he is low-cost and deserves at least a spot in camp. If the Bears draft a strong safety to replace Major Wright, and ride out Steltz as a backup then, Wright is expendable. There are some needs that are going to have to be addressed in free agency, and the Bears will probably target another free agent like, Micheal Bennet from the Seahawks, or Brian Orakpo from the Redskins to fill in for Mclellin on the line.
I can see Peppers sticking around if he would restructure his deal, to the extent he is willing is the question. If he is gone the Bears need to look at Cornelius Washington, and draft either a defensive tackle or defensive end. The Bears need to figure out Melton’s deal. However I don’t think that he is worth a large amount of cap space. It’s going to be a very different landscape next season on defense, that’s the one thing you can count on.