Week 2 No Time for Bears Defensive Panic

Several possible Bears solutions to pass coverage problems experienced in the opener against Matthew Stafford
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The three touchdowns allowed by the Bears and six Rams players with catches of 17 yards or more Sunday have put new defensive coordinator Sean Desai under the microscope.

It's not Matt Nagy's microscope or magnifying glass, but the public's. It's too soon for Nagy to panic about his defense.

"But overall I'd say the biggest theme for us would be no panic and just understand that, hey, that was Sean's first game calling and this was our first game of 2021, and we understand that that's not good enough," Nagy said. "We know we want to be better. We want to focus on any of the positives that there were. 

"Then, that's why I think we all believe in one another and now we get another chance this weekend."

It's not unheard of for teams to dump coordinators a week or two into seasons. It would be a real sign of everything headed for the dumpster if they did something like this with Desai, who is held with such esteem at Halas Hall.

Still, it's a problem. In each of the last two seasons under coordinator Chuck Pagano, the Bears allowed seven pass plays longer than 40 yards. They allowed two in Sunday night's loss.

Here's how the Bears could treat the pass coverage disaster they had Sunday after the secondary was decimated in Desai's debut.

1. Flush It

This has been a common term at Halas Hall thanks to coachspeak and Cole Kmet talking about his high school coach using the term. But flushing too much eventually leads to plugged drains. Enough with the graphic talk. 

It basically means they watch film, move ahead and there is no change on the field beyond trying to improve communication in the secondary.    

Giving up big plays for touchdowns is a serious matter because opponents see what the Rams did to cause these problems and, as linebacker Roquan Smith said after the game, "it will come again next week."

Matt Nagy expressed confidence in the defense moving on, fixing the communication aspect and preventing future big plays. While this sounds easy to say, this type of thing has happened in the past and the Bears did answer this way.

Believe it or not, the last quarterback to do this type of thing to them was Stafford. He threw for 400 yards at Soldier Field last year in the Lions' comeback win. The Bears responded by allowing only 211 yards passing per game over the final four and didn't give up more than 249 in any game. 

They did have a lineup change in that stretch, but it wasn't to improve the defense. It was because of season-ending injuries to Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine.

2. Replacements

This is entirely possible. Maybe they go back to Duke Shelley at slot cornerback. For some reason, they replaced him with Marqui Christian for the game and had breakdowns in the back.

It's still early in the season so not much is established in terms of continuity and communication among the secondary. When the Bears first broke in former slot cornerback Bryce Callahan they had to go through a trial period early like this, and the lineup fluctuated somewhat. 

Shelley was in the first-team spot at slot cornerback throughout much of this training camp and preseason. Then Desai made a personnel call and promoted Christian to this spot for the opener, while leaving Shelley inactive. 

Christian wasn't even on the 53-man roster initially. He had to clear waivers to come back, and then he was starting. 

"Yeah, some of that is, you know, for the defensive side of where they want to go in regard to the nickel position and then you have special teams, too," Nagy said of the lineup change. "So every week it's a little bit different."

Basically, whatever Nagy says about defense can almost be ignored. He doesn't really focus much on defense, although he says he's close with some of the players. 

The evidence:

"Duke's had a great training camp and we feel good with him so we'll see where that goes but a lot of times it's just (special teams) numbers," Nagy said.

If Shelley had a great training camp, he wouldn't have been inactive.

"We always look at everything each week," Nagy said about personnel change. 

3. Promotion

The Bears have a slot cornerback candidate on the practice squad. Thomas Graham Jr. was their sixth-round draft pick. They cut him and brought him back on the practice squad. GM Ryan Pace included him among players who were going to "...have to grow and develop."

It's only been a week so it's doubtful Graham has done much growing or developing.

4. Head to the Scrap Heap

Good luck finding a viable slot cornerback on the street at this time of season. Expecting him to step right in and play is even less likely to occur. 

When final cutdowns came last week, Washington's Jimmy Moreland was available and had been the third-best slot corner last year according to Next Gen Stats. 

However, he had been waived and Houston claimed him. So the Bears or any other team not mired last year with only four wins like Houston never had a chance to claim him.

The time for finding value off waivers is long gone. Teams are playing and what little talent out there might be gone already. 

Tampa Bay just lost Sean Murphy-Bunting to an injury and San Francisco Jason Verrett. It's why you need to have depth, and the Bears have looked thin at these spots since OTAs.

The other possibility here is raiding another team's practice squad for someone. Your pro personnel people need to be on top of their games for this sort of thing.

5. Trade

They've already traded Anthony Miller to Houston. Maybe they could swing another trade for a late-round pick with Houston for Moreland, who didn't play this week after arriving so late. 

The Texans appeared to be fine without him in Lovie Smith's defense last week and perhaps as a rebuilding team they could just use the draft extra pick.

Or maybe they need a player, like an extra offensive or defensive lineman or safety. It's not like the Bears have spare talent falling off trees but they have a few at those spots.

This seems unlikely, but the trade for a draft pick would be more possible. 

However, if the Bears were going the trade route, it's more likely they'd be pursuing a player already established and not someone who was just waived. 

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