Danny Trevathan Heads List of Bears Needing to Rebound

Gene Chamberlain

There is no subtle way to put it.

The Bears caved in on defense against the Detroit Lions in much the same way they did against the Raiders last year, except this time they had Akiem Hicks on the field for a full game unlike that London game.

"We've gotta play better," Bears nose tackle John Jenkins said. "We've gotta step up. We all know that when you're in this league, that there's a big stepping stone from the first week to the second week. Here we are from the first week to the second week and we just working hard and trying to dot the I's and cross the T's."

The problem wasn't Hicks or Jenkins necessarily, although it began right at the heart of their dependable front seven as 35-year-old Adrian Peterson poured through them after playing for Detroit only a week.

Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan had a game like few he's experienced in the NFL. Their defensive leader tied for their tackles lead with seven but this meant little. He had an abysmal Pro Football Focus grade for the game of 28, a 39 in run defense and 29.3 in pass defense.

"Danny's a grown man," inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said. "He's willing to accept when he doesn't have a good play. And listen, everybody has good plays. Everybody has bad plays. "

Not being better against the run when they play the Giants Sunday can be total disaster for the Bears because Saquon Barkley ran against them even when the defense was at its best two years ago. He had 125 yards on 24 carries in 2018, then was held to 59 on 17 last year.

Coaches wanted to put some blame on Sunday's effort being the first real test for the defense in live hitting conditions. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano wanted to disperse responsibility throughout rather than single out. 

"I don't think you'd find anybody on the defensive side–coaches or players–who would say, hey, we're OK," Pagano said. "Because we weren't good. I have to do a better job preparing these guys. I have to do a better job of coaching. And then we have to execute better.

"That's just how it is. We didn't do our job. We didn't play well in certain situations and particularly in the run game. We pride ourselves on stopping the run. So we have to be better there."  

It's possible the lack of hitting in camp and no preseason games affected them.

"We're not going to use that as an excuse, but time on task, practice makes perfect," Pagano said. "And you've got to play. You've got to play the game. Especially for young players, you know, a first-year corner, practice is one thing and you try to do the best job you can to put him in the real game-like situations, but that was our first outing, real outing, game speed, full speed tackling, taking on blocks, cut blocks, this, that and the other, covering guys. All that stuff. 

"Certainly would it look different with a normal offseason of preseason games? You’d like to maybe think so, but that's not the case here. We've got the circumstances that we're in and we're going to play better come Sunday."

There were some goal-line drills with live hitting and a limited amount of live hits in one of the two controlled scrimmages held at camp, but first-team live play was extremely rare in camp.

The Bears never have had their first-team defense hit much in the past in camp under Matt Nagy or any other coaches since Dave Wannstedt for that matter. And in preseason during Nagy's second season the Bears didn't even let their first-team defense play beyond part of a series. Yet, they were ready for the start of the season then.

Another big difference stopping the run occurred at nose tackle. Trevathan in rush defense often plays off nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who opted out due to COVID-19. Goldman occupies the blockers and Trevathan makes the play.

Without Goldman, the Bears used Bilal Nichols and Jenkins on the nose. In pass rush situations, Nichols was often on the field at the right defensive tackle rush position.

Nichols didn't have a strong game at all, and neither did Jenkins. However, neither dipped as low as Trevathan. PFF gave Jenkins a 56.8 rating with a 56.8 for 13 run plays. Nichols drew a 63.4 overall, with a 58.9 run grade.

The very first Detroit running play gave an indication of what was to come. The Lions had two blocker on Goldman and drove him straight out of the box 3 yards back and out to the side. The point of attack was to Goldman's left so the gain was minimal.

Akiem Hicks had a respectable 67.2 overall grade, but not quite his normal dominance. His run grade was a solid 72.9.

Trevathan wasn't alone in having troubles at inside linebacker. Roquan Smith didn't excel either.

"I think Roquan had an up and down game," DeLeone said. "I think there's things that he can do better. I think he knows that."

DeLeone was quick to point out Smith made some of the bigger plays, as well. Possibly the biggest came on a third-down screen pass Smith snuffed out late in the fourth quarter to force a 55-yard field goal attempt which hit the right up right and bounced away.

"If we don't make that play, and they make a field goal right there, that completely changes the outcome of the game," DeLeone said. "So he had some big plays in crucial scenarios."

As bad a game as Trevathan had against the run, one key mistake he made against the pass nearly resulted in a loss.

Trevathan had D'Andre Swift in coverage on the game's next-to-last play. Swift got wide open at the goal line and dropped the pass.

"I think Danny knows the mistakes he had," DeLeone said. "He's a competitor. He's going to be able to correct those. I know he's excited about that to get back to work this week."

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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