The Chicago Bears defense will look different next season and those changes will go beyond what you see on the stat sheet.
The common thought is that Julius Peppers and Jared Allen have been comparable players throughout their careers. Allen has been a better pass rusher, but Peppers was a beast against the run. Last year, however, Peppers was horrendous against the run and still not near the pass rusher that Allen is. In fact, Allen graded out better as a run defender on Pro Football Focus, receiving a +1.6 to Peppers -2.7.
Last week, I broke down the Bears statistical improvement and Allen further adds to that. Using the same formula, opposing passers would have an average success rate of 60.9 percent with Allen on the field.
It’s about more than that.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the 2013 version of the Bears defense is that they didn’t seem to care how much they got their butts kicked, especially when Lance Briggs wasn’t in the lineup.
I’m sure they did. I’m sure Peppers didn’t like being pushed around by much smaller players and I’m sure he tried harder the next play. These guys don’t get to the NFL level without caring about football and wanting success.
Throughout his career, the issues with Peppers have been effort and intensity. Those are viewed as strengths of Allen, who doesn’t have nearly the physical skills, but has been a more productive player.
Allen has his flaws. Those who don’t like him will point to his run defense. He loses containment often, allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket.
But he’s a fighter.
When he gets blocked on a run play, he keeps coming. When the quarterback escapes his grasp, he chases them. He keeps going. No matter how many blockers are thrown his way, no matter what happens. He fights.
The same can be said for Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. They keep coming no matter what the circumstances are.
They all bring an attitude to the Bears defense. They’re all good, they know they’re good and they’ll tell their opponent that they’re good.
By now, everyone has seen the photo of Jay Cutler shoving Young away. Houston has a similar swagger and NFC North quarterbacks are very familiar with Allen’s ability to lasso quarterbacks.
Maybe it’s a bit of arrogance, but arrogance is often necessary to be a great defense. The “Legion of Boom” wasn’t modest, neither are the 49ers nor were the great Bears defenses of the past.
Briggs has that kind of attitude, Tim Jennings knows he’s good. It isn’t coincidence that those were the only two defenders the Bears were willing to commit to.
With those two and the additions of Allen, Houston and Young, the Bears have to be hoping the confidence is going to pass throughout the rest of their defense. There’s no doubt that linebackers Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin have ability, they’re not always confident in what they’re trying to do.
The Bears are still expected to use their early draft picks on defense, although the holes aren’t as gaping as they once were. I’d expect them to bring in players who bother the quarterback and bring a swagger to the defense.
This will be a different Bears defense in 2014. They’re better on paper and they’ll be better in the areas you can’t measure.