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There’s been plenty of change for the Chicago Bears defense this offseason. Whether it’s transitioning to a 4-3 scheme or the overhaul on the roster, the is going to be a new-look Bears defense in 2022.
The Bears still have some of their stars in place, including linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive end Robert Quinn, and they’ve added some impact rookies in cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Kyler Gordon.
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With training camp in full swing, the defense has been the clear winners over the offense. But we’ve yet to see them play in live action, and they’ve been without their best player in Smith. Can this defense rebound following a poor outing last season?
Our Bears Wire staff is sharing their bold prediction for the defense heading into the 2022 season. Go big or go home.
Alyssa Barbieri: Bears defense will eclipse 25 takeaways
USA Today Sports
The Bears have long stressed the importance of taking the ball away on defense, but they’ve struggled to do just that. Back in 2018, the Bears led the NFL in takeaways with 36. Since then, they’ve failed to eclipse 20. In fact, their takeaways have declined over the last three seasons — 19 in 2019, 18 in 2020 and 16 in 2021.
That should change this season under head coach Matt Eberflus, who’s instilled his H.I.T.S. principle — “T” for takeaways — that has his roster buying in. The league average in takeaways last season was in the low-20s, which is a bar this new-look Bears defense should clear with a new emphasis on forcing turnovers. Twenty-five might not sound bold, but it is for a defense that hasn’t managed 20 in three years. They have an improved secondary and edge rushers who’ve had success.
The Bears have yet to play a game — be it preseason or regular season — so it’s hard to gauge exactly how this defense will look, especially down some key starters from last year. But the defense has shown a knack for taking the ball away so far in training camp, whether it’s rookie ballhawks Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker or veterans Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson.
Brendan Sugrue: Jaquan Brisker is a finalist for Defensive Rookie of the Year
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier this week, rookie safety Jaquan Brisker listed out his goals for the 2022 NFL season and while most were team oriented, he did indicate he wants to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Given his early outstanding play during offseason activities and training camp, I believe he’s going to be in the conversation.
Brisker has yet to play in a regular season game, let alone a preseason game. But there’s plenty of hype around him to warrant such a prediction. Brisker has been flying to the ball on many occasions and has made his presence known in a big way. He’s a playmaker who can take advantage of quarterback mistakes while also playing a big role in the run game at the strong safety position.
Having a defensive back win the award is somewhat of a rarity, with just two players capturing the honors in the last 10 years (Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Peters). Furthermore, most players who win are on teams that make the postseason and the Bears will have a hard time accomplishing that. But he will be a finalist for the award with his stellar play putting the league on notice.
Ryan Fedrau: Eddie Jackson bounces back under Matt Eberflus
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
It’s no secret that Eddie Jackson has struggled over the last two seasons. Jackson was a takeaway machine in his first three seasons — with 10 interceptions, 3 pick-6s, and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns.
Jackson hasn’t had an interception since Week 17 against the Vikings in 2019. His last fumble recovery was Week 10 against the Vikings in 2020. The man dubbed “Quick Six” by Jeff Joniak in 2018 has been unrecognizable over the last two seasons. In 2022, that changes.
Jackson will have a breakout year, as Chicago should be more aggressive on defense. Amidst a rebuild on both sides of the ball, there is a lot of uncertainty. One thing I’m certain of is Jackson becoming a takeaway machine again.
Nate Atkins: Roquan Smith makes first team All-Pro and Pro Bowl
AP Photo/Jason Behnken
Roquan Smith is a two-time second-team All-Pro and has yet to make a Pro Bowl in his four-year career.
Coming out of Georgia in 2018, teams speculated on having to move Roquan to the weak side linebacker (WILL) given his athleticism but lack of size. At 6’1 230, he’s on the smaller end for a middle linebacker but has accumulated more than 500 tackles, 14 sacks, and five interceptions.
With Eberflus moving Smith to the WILL linebacker spot, he’s putting him in the spot Shaquille Leonard plays for the Colts. Watch for Roquan to increase his pressure rate and potentially sacks. Whether it’s the combination of great defense or the defense spending a lot of time on the field, I’d expect him to have a great year.