Chicago Bears fans got confirmation, at least on the defensive end of the ball, of what scheme they will be running. The defense will be returning to the 4-3 as their base defense. Fans should be familiar with that style of defense, considering it carried them to a Super Bowl appearance back in 2006.
The Bears have had plenty of success in a 4-3 defense under former coach Lovie Smith. Each coach, Eberflus and Smith, demands similar things from their defense. When Smith came to the Bears, he had to flip a bit of that roster. Gone were the bigger but sluggish defenders in place of faster athletic ones all over the defense. Eberflus will try to recreate the same thing.
While the Bears have had good defensive units over the years, they truly lack speed on that side of the ball. The player on this current defense that should benefit the most from this scheme change is Roquan Smith. The decision would be whether Smith’s skill-set best suits middle or weakside linebacker.
Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard developed into a star LB in that scheme under Eberflus’ watch. While the Dallas Cowboys do not run a Tampa 2 base set, Micah Parsons is another player that is playing the same position in the 4-3. What is unique about Parsons’ responsibilities in their 4-3 is that he is moved all over the front seven to create favorable mismatches.
The Chicago Bears’ defense will look entirely different in 2022 under Matt Eberflus.
I do not expect Smith to be a similar player but I imagine that he gets opportunities to be in the right position to make impact plays. In the 3-4, Smith was not originally an ideal fit for that system. However, in the 4-3 particularly, Smith has a chance to be a superstar player.
With Smith moving over to WLB, the Bears will need to find an LB that could effectively drop into coverage. All that while also having the capability to make plays sideline-to-sideline and around the line of scrimmage. A void also will need to be filled at Strongside LB (SAM), with a player capable of covering the opposing team’s tight end in their base package.
The defensive line will look different. We have known for years that this defense heavily relies on four down linemen getting pressure and dropping your back seven in coverage. Both Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have had previous success as 4-3 edge rushers. The question marks will come in the middle with the nose and under tackle spots.
Eddie Goldman would be an ideal 4-3 NT in past years but the writing is on the wall that he will be a cap casualty. Bilal Nichols is a free agent that could be brought back as that penetrating under tackle that rushes from the three-technique.
Nichols might be another holdover from the defense that could benefit from the schematic change on defense. However, it is up to the new GM Ryan Poles and Eberflus to figure out if he is worth bringing back.
There likely will be no drastic difference in the secondary. Outside of Eddie Jackson going back to strictly being a centerfield FS. Also, expect Jackson to be paired with a true strong safety with the capabilities to come down in the box to make plays to add to his coverage responsibilities.
The Bears’ defense will look vastly different in 2022. Expect a faster and more athletic group with an emphasis on hustling to the football and creating turnovers.