Over his three previous seasons, Bears coach Matt Nagy usually talks defense about like former defensive coordinators Chuck Pagano and Vic Fangio talked offense.
Nagy talked about beating defenses, and occasionally delved into how he liked Khalil Mack pressuring offenses or Eddie Jackson's coverage, but not much too deep in defensive philosophy or goals. After all, he's an offensive guy.
Nagy has a defensive objective this season. It might have eventual offensive ramifications, but it's something to aim at on the defensive side.
"A ton of takeaways and turnovers," Nagy said. "A ton of them. Everywhere you look, I want that ball coming out. I want fumbles, interceptions, tipped passes."
They would like it to become like during the 2018 defense, with so many turnovers forced that it becomes almost contagious. That defense took it away 36 times in Fangio's final year as coordinator. They had 27 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries to lead the NFL.
"I mean like, when they go to bed at night, just think about intercepting the football, you know?" Nagy said. "Stripping that football, be like, crazy about it. Everywhere you go.
"We have to get takeaways this year, and I think we got a lot of guys that are ready for it."
Being ready for it and accomplishing it are two different things. Turnovers seem to be a more random statistic than others.
No team has repeated as league leader in forcing turnovers since the Pittsburgh Steelers "Steel Curtain" era teams from 1972-74. In fact, no team which led in forcing turnovers has finished in the top five at takeaways the following year in the last 15 seasons.
In Vic Fangio's final year, the Bears took the ball away 36 times. They had 27 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries in 2018.
But they tied for 22nd by causing 19 in 2019 and then were 25th in 2020 with 18.
"I feel like we didn't turn the ball over as much and I feel that that's what the game's about, being able to take the ball away and create turnovers and get the ball back to the offense," said cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who is still looking for his first career interception.
To be more ready for the opportunities when they arise, the Bears plan to pay more attention to the possibility turnovers could happen.
In Lovie Smith's coaching era, they usually ranked somewhere near the top of the league at this but it was easier when Charles Tillman was using his "Peanut Punch," to knock loose the ball and the cover-2 zone was able to produce interceptions. They also picked up the ball and returned it on every incomplete pass during practice.
"I know Sean, coach Desai, is really excited to do some emphasis drills with that," Nagy said. "We went through that a few years ago, and you can see what that can do. That can really help out.
"But we as coaches, we've got to talk about it. You can't just go out and expect it to happen. So that's what I know Sean has a plan for."
Still, the Bears talked about it a lot in 2019 and 2020 when Pagano was defensive coordinator and it didn't happen. While Fangio's defense produced a league-high 36 in 2018, two seasons earlier during John Fox's second year as head coach they caused 11 turnovers. That was the lowest total in the league. Two years earlier in Fangio's first year as defensive coordinator, they took it away 17 times which was 28th in the league. So it's been feast or famine.
Linebacker Roquan Smith said it's more a matter of being prepared rather than thinking they can force the issue.
"We just gotta come out each and every day and push ourselves to our limits and even after we get to our limits, go even more," Smith said. "I feel like if we do that everything else will take care of itself and turnovers, they come in bunches and once they start coming, they'll just continue to come."
Top NFL Teams Turnovers Forced
1972 Pittsburgh 48
1973 Pittsburgh 55
1974 Pittsburgh 47
1975 Buffalo 45
1976 New England 50
1977 Houston 54
1978 Miami 53
1979 Houston 50
1980 Oakland 52
1981 Green Bay 54
1982 L.A. Raiders 29
1983 Washington 61
1984 Seattle 63
1985 BEARS 54
1986 San Francisco, Kansas City 49
1987 Philadelphia, New Orleans 48
1988 Minnesota 53
1989 Philadelphia 56
1990 BEARS, Kansas City 45
1991 Philadelphia, New Orleans 48
1992 Pittsburgh 43
1993 Buffalo 47
1994 New England 40
1995 Arizona 42
1996 Cincinnati 44
1997 N.Y. Giants 44
1998 Atlanta 44
1999 Philadelphia 46
2000 Baltimore 49
2001 Cleveland 42
2002 Green Bay 45
2003 St. Louis 46
2004 Buffalo 39
2005 Cincinnati 44
2006 BEARS 44
2007 San Diego 48
2008 Baltimore 34
2009 Green Bay 40
2010 N.Y. Giants 39
2011 Green Bay, San Francisco 38
2012 BEARS 44
2013 Seattle 39
2014 Houston 34
2015 Carolina 39
2016 Kansas City 33
2017 Baltimore 34
2018 BEARS 36
2019 Pittsburgh 38
2020 Miami 29