The NFL Scouting Combine will take place this week in Indianapolis as new Bears’ general manager Ryan Poles will scout potential draft prospects. Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus will need to address several positions on Chicago’s roster this offseason, but the team’s defensive pass rush will not be one of the more dire positions. Although the Bears’ will potentially have Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn for the 2022 NFL season, Chicago’s new front office needs to find suitable replacements for the talented pass rushers.
Monster of the Midway.
The most dominating @FiftyDeuce plays of 2019! 🎂 pic.twitter.com/JyWn6hpllw
— NFL (@NFL) February 22, 2020
Since 2006, the Bears have failed to find a quality pass rusher, whether a linebacker, defensive tackle, or defensive end, in the draft. Defensive end Mark Anderson is the last drafted played by Chicago to record ten or more sacks in a season. Since Anderson’s rookie season in 2006, in which he generated 12 sacks, the Bears have failed to find a pass-rushing difference-maker.
Attempts have been made by the general managers in the role, including Jerry Angelo, Phil Emery, and Ryan Pace, as all three drafted a defensive prospect with the hopes of producing a high level of sacks. Despite the attempts by Chicago’s three general managers, all three executives failed to find a pass rusher that was a constant and disruptive threat for opposing quarterbacks. Since Anderson in 2006, the next highest sack total by a drafted Bears player was defensive tackle Tommie Harris in 2007, who was selected in the 2004 NFL Draft.
The play that sparked one of the most remarkable 4th quarter comebacks in Bears history.
Mark Anderson hits Matt Leinart ➡️ ball is loose ➡️ scooped up by Mike Brown for 6️⃣. #TurnoverTuesday | #ScoopNScore pic.twitter.com/vgvkiQK6hz
— Bear Down Blog (@BearDown_Blog) June 15, 2021
Chicago has used several first and second-round draft selections on pass rushers who were believed to be the next elite difference-maker. In 2007, Angelo drafted Boston College defensive end Dan Bazuin in the second round. Bazuin never played in a single game for the Bears as he suffered a severe knee injury during training camp of that year and was let go in 2008 by Chicago.
In 2012, Emery used the 19th overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft to select Boise State edge rusher Shea McClellin instead of drafting future All-Pro defensive end Chandler Jones. The draft selection was questionable as the Boise State edge rusher was undersized and didn’t fit the Bears’ current defensive scheme. Jones has recorded seven seasons of 10 sacks or more in his career, while McClellin recorded a total of seven and a half sacks during his four-year career with Chicago.
Imagine if he was just already on the #Bears instead of drafting Shea McClellin… Damn you Phil Emery https://t.co/Qv02XDsgeQ
— JJ LaPlante (@JJLaPlanteeee) July 26, 2021
Four years later, Pace would trade up one spot in the 2016 NFL Draft to draft Georgia edge rusher Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall selection. Although Floyd has had a successful career so far, he failed to live up to high expectations while in Chicago. During his four-year career with the Bears, the Georgia edge rusher’s best season came during his rookie season when he had seven sacks.
Although Chicago will feature one of the league’s best passing rushing duos in Mack and Quinn, if kept together, the Bears’ will likely need to find replacements for both following the 2022 season. Both All-Pro defensive stars will likely become free agents due to expiring contracts or by being salary-cap cut. Furthermore, the Bears’ will need to find a pass rusher that fits Eberflus’ desired Cover 2 defensive scheme, which either will require a defensive end or three-technique defensive tackle that can provide consistent pressure on an opposing quarterback.
With a Cover-2 defensive scheme, all pass-rushing pressure must come from the defensive line as the linebackers are responsible for covering opposing running backs and tight ends on pass plays. Chicago has run a successful Cover-2 defense before under head coach Lovie Smith from 2004 to 2012. The primary difference between when the Bears’ defense was at its’ best or worst under Smith was demonstrated in sack totals generated by the defensive line.
During Smith’s tenure, Chicago won the NFC North Division three times, with each of those division-winning teams featuring a defensive end who recorded ten or more sacks. Adewale Ogunleye, Julius Peppers, and Anderson each registered ten or more sacks in those playoff seasons. In back-to-back seasons of 2005 and 2006, the Bears’ defense recorded 40 or more sacks.
When Smith’s team couldn’t generate pressure from the defensive line, the defense struggled significantly to stop the pass. In 2008 and 2009, Chicago’s defense ranked in the lower third in defending the pass as no defensive lineman recorded nine or more sacks in those seasons. Angelo and Smith made several attempts to find quality pass rushers via the draft but never found or developed a consistent threat.
Now, during this offseason, Eberflus and Poles must find a potential pass-rushing prospect in this year’s NFL Draft. If Chicago can find a promising talent, the team can ease the defensive prospect into the new defensive scheme. The pass-rushing prospect will be provided a longer development period without pressure, with Mack and Quinn serving as the primary pass-rushing threats this season. In 2023, Eberflus can then fully deploy his cover-2 defense with his young pass rusher and potentially another.
6. Robert Quinn finished with 19 sacks. The second time he’s done that in his career. For two different teams.
Trevis Gipson finished his second year with 7 sacks and the #Bears defense had 49 total.
How good would this pass rush have been with Khalil Mack healthy all year? pic.twitter.com/co4B8GgNqP
— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) January 9, 2022
Although Poles and Eberflus have more significant positions to address on Chicago’s roster, including the offensive line and the defensive secondary, finding a pass-rushing defensive lineman prospect this offseason is essential. Previous Bears’ general managers have attempted to find that elite-level talent via the draft and have failed, which ultimately led to their firings. For Poles, If he can find a disruptive pass-rushing threat in his first draft, he could get his general manager tenure with the Bears off to an explosive start.
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