Entering the 2014 season, there was optimism galore regarding the Chicago Bears defense. The team spent big on improving the pass rush, adding defensive ends Jared Allen, LaMarr Houston and Willie Young. Well, Young was the only member of the trio who showed up, the Bears defense was a dumpster fire, and 2015 brings with it more (and even bigger) changes.
Let’s see, how shall I put this?
From an IDP perspective, there isn’t a damn thing to see on the Bears’ revamped defensive line.
The reason isn’t hard to pinpoint. New Chicago head coach John Fox decided on Vic Fangio (formerly of the San Francisco 49ers) as his new defensive coordinator, and that means a scheme switch to a three-man front, which in turn means that Allen, Houston and Young have all been re-classified as linebackers by many IDP providers.
Want to know why the talent pool up front in IDP leagues is so shallow? Changes like this.
Well, at least things get better at the linebacker spot, right?
After 11 seasons in the Windy City, Lance Briggs is gone. The Bears brought in free agent Mason Foster, who tallied 62 tackles in 10 games last year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as a potential replacement. Now Foster will battle youngsters Jon Bostic, Christian Jones, and Shea McClellin for the two inside linebacker spots in Fangio’s defense.
As Dan Wiederer of The Chicago Tribune wrote, who will slot where remains very much up for debate. “The competition at inside linebacker will be wide open heading into training camp,” Wiederer said. “And while Christian Jones and Shea McClellin may have an inside track on winning starting jobs, Foster will arrive in Bourbonnais aiming to change that conversation.”
The conversation for IDP owners isn’t just about who will start. It’s also about which (if any) of these linebackers will earn the subpackage snaps that should equate to consistent IDP production. Of the group, Jones impresses us as the best upside dart-throw, but the fact is none of the Bears linebackers are much more than that as things stand today.
Veteran safety Ryan Mundy paced the Bears with 103 tackles last year, a sure sign of a bad defense. However, Mundy told ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson that his priority this season is having new batterymate Antrel Rolle’s back.
“Chemistry at safety is really important because we have to have each other’s back,” Mundy said. “That’s one of the things I learned in Pittsburgh playing with Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu. Ryan also had Troy’s back. At safety you need to be a playmaker and if you look at the history of the coaches we have now and the safeties they have coached, the players have always been highly successful, Pro Bowl-type guys. They’ve always had each other’s back and made a lot of plays. We’re looking forward to having that in Chicago this year.”
It’s Rolle who IDP owners should be more interested in, provided that his asking price in drafts doesn’t climb too high. Mundy, on the other hand, is a prime candidate to regress in 2015 to little more than a late flier.
In fact, before considering Mundy it’s advisable to look at second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller, who displayed the three things IDP owners want in the position as a rookie – a nose for big plays, the willingness to get dirty against the run and the capacity to get burned with some regularity.