That headline may seem a little obvious if you remember watching the opposition's tight ends wreak havoc on the Bears defense. So much of the offseason has focused on the offense and how it should/will improve and all the new additions over there. Less talked about is the defense, and for good reason. However, this is one area where the defense needs to improve if the Bears want to get to where they should be.
The Bears defense doesn't always get as much talk time on here sometimes because it's just been so consistent under Lovie Smith. Same scheme, a few new faces (but we're only looking at maybe 3-4 new starters on that side of the ball) and same coaches. Since Smith handed over defensive playcalling to Rod Marinelli in 2010, the unit has just been solid all around, not much to see or talk about.
But this was one of the defense's worst areas last season and I thought it would be worth it to delve into it a bit and see what could be done about it this year.
This is the break down of touchdowns caught by opponents:
Wide Receivers - 13
Tight Ends - 9
Running Backs - 1
The Bears improved against TEs towards the end of the season, but opposing TEs were ahead of opposing WRs in TD catches until Week 16 when Jordy Nelson and James Jones caught a combined 4 TDs.
There were six games last year where an opponents TE was its second leading receiver (weeks 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 11), there was one game where the opponents TE was it's leading receiver (Tony Gonzalez in week 1). In week 15 against Seattle, the Seahawk with the second-most receptions and third most yards was their TE.
Now when you step back and think about it, giving up yards to an opponents TE might not be that big of a deal...when you're winning. The defensive system the Bears use is predicated on giving up short-yardage in the middle of the field and not giving up big plays. Generally speaking, this means that a TE might end up with a lot of yards, they work the middle of the field and find soft spots in the zones. OK that's fine, as long as the defense is getting off the field on third downs and keeping the opponent out of the endzone.
But the Bears weren't doing that. Look back at the first set of numbers, the Bears were clearly not shutting down TEs in the endzone. Furthermore, even when the Bears were winning and not giving up as many yards to TEs they still did damage. Kellen Winslow Jr., Jermichael Finley in week 16 and Tony Scheffler in the second Lions game, all caught TDs against the Bears despite not doing much else.
So what can the Bears do to improve this? Well for starters, I think the team looked at this problem and recognized that in their own division they have Brandon Pettigrew, Jermichael Finley and Kyle Rudolph and across the NFC, where they'll want to make noise in the playoffs they have to deal with Jimmy Graham, Brent Celek and Tony Gonzalez.
Enter Brandon Hardin the cornerback-turned-safety from Oregon State. Even if he does not make much impact as a rookie, in my opinion he is the new breed of DB in the league and will be groomed with the idea to help defend against the big fast guys at TE. Hardin is 6'3" and has 4.48 speed. With NFL offenses looking for guys like 6'5" speed freaks like Demaryius Thomas, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson it makes sense for defenses to look for bigger cover guys.
Hardin is just one step in what the Bears need to help slow down opponents' TEs.
I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was that bad. Up until GB's 16 WR 5 TD game TE's had caught more TD's against our D then WR's had. Is that the new way to beat the Cover two? Big pass catching TE's that find that whole in the zone and wreak havoc on the underszied DB's?
I think we'll see Hardin part way into the season covering TE's perhaps. Hell,now that we are using TE's again on first team they'll remember how to cover those guys lol. Rod throws wrinkles in here and there and I wouldn't be surprised if he evolved the D to compensate for the opponents TE's.
Arguing on the internet is like winning the special olympics, even if you win your still messed up.
Might have a point about how the D got lax on TE's when in practice they never got to D them up in coverage. But regardless you cannot have the TE's owning you like they had last year. Better to get that fixed now as it seems the league is moving that way.
DVOA ratings represent value from the point of view of the defense, not fantasy footballplayers, and include items that have no impact on fantasy football (such as how many interceptions are caught on passes intended to certain receivers). DVOA of defense against receivers does not include sacks or passes with no intended receiver listed. Passes per game and yards per game are more useful for fantasy football players. These numbers are adjusted based on the opposing offenses and include defensive pass interference.
Note that our decision of which receiver is 'number one' and which receiver is 'number two' is somewhat subjective. Teams are ranked in order of general passing defense DVOA.
Numbers in red represent NFL averages for the season.
I just wanted to drag this info over into this thread. I am still learning about the different statisics of FO, but if 0% DVOA is league average, and neg. is good. This chart shows that vs. TE's the bears are pretty much average. Is this rise of position more of a trend of the game?
I've always thought of the NY Jets secondary as the best in the league. (Revis, Cro, Wilson) I still think they are, however, look what is being shown vs. tight ends. That's more of a hole. If your passing, I suppose it requires a pass...
p.s. I know this table did not post well. (Learning this MB as well) The link will probally give a better view and have the rest of the article.