Sean Desai's Imprint on Defense Should Look Like Vic Fangio's

New Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai wants people to feel the difference in his defense, through more physical and faster play in 2021
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There may not be a huge difference next season in the way the Bears deploy on defense under new coordinator Sean Desai from the way they did under Chuck Pagano.

It might be more of a feel type of thing.

"It's going to be something that's palpable, whether you're watching the tape, whether you're watching at home or whether you're in the stadium," Desai said. "And a thing that you can feel: Our physicalness, you can feel toughness, you can feel discipline, you can feel a sense of swarming to the ball and finishing.

"Those are things that we’re going to be able to hang our hats on, from a coaching perspective, from a player perspective and that’s where it's going to start."

Pagano retired and Desai could be a throwback to the Vic Fangio era because he has been with the Bears dating all the way back to the start of the Marc Trestman regime in 2013 as a quality control or position coach.

Desai even joked about how he might have picked up things from Fangio in the coaches' box during games from 2015-18.

"Truth be told, I had a front row seat of him calling the game," Desai said. "We were both in the booth and he sat next to me. Well, I sat next to him, I should say.

"He got to choose where he wanted to sit. I was just put next to him."

The 3-4 style remains the same but Desai is more likely to follow the ways Fangio put pressure on offenses through deception than Pagano.


The Bears dropped off in sacks from 50 in 2018 under Fangio to 36 and 35 in two years under Pagano. They also went from 36 takeaways in 2018 to 20 and 19 the last two seasons. So the numbers are trending downward even while much of the talent remained.

To Desai, the turnover numbers are particularly troubling.

"I think we're gonna continue to have a huge emphasis on that," he said. "And there'll be some strategies and things like that we do from a meeting and practice standpoint to really emphasize that, really get our players to embrace that. And then, I mean, the other end of that is to execute. When it's certain guys' chances to go make some plays, they're gonna know when they can take those shots and have those opportunities and then it's gonna be my job as a play caller to make sure they've got those opportunities.

"And I think we're gonna be able to try to do that and really optimize all of our players' abilities. We've got a lot of talent on this defense. It's the ability to optimize it and then ultimately, a lot of times sacks come as a result of coverage, and takeaways come as a result of pressure."

Khalil Mack dropping from 12 1/2 sacks to 8 1/2 and then 9 last season was troubling, as Robert Quinn's two sacks in his first Bears season after making 11 in his final Cowboys season. Even Akiem Hicks' had a drop. He had 3 1/2 sacks after three games last year and none the rest of the year.

In the secondary, Eddie Jackson's interception total declined from six to two and last year to zero.

                                                 -Sean Desai on last year's Bears defense

The run defense also declined from first in 2018 to 14th last year but much of that had to do with losing Eddie Goldman to an opt-out. There is no guarantee Goldman will return.

"So in regards to Eddie, I have not been given any confirmation and quite honestly, I don't know when that process or if I get that confirmation, how that works," Desai said. "I think our expectation and his, I think, is that he will want to play because I know he misses it, and he wants to be back."

Although it's largely perceived Desai will follow the plan Fangio used, he was also under Pagano and Mel Tucker with the Bears. He said he draws on all the coaches who served as mentors.

"Like at Temple University when I started as a young G.A. and even as a volunteer, I was able to learn from Al Golden and see a lot of the back ends of the group and how he did things and why he did things and he was great enough to share that with me," Desai said. "And so, I've had a list for a long time on people that either I've worked with, had seen work, have clinic-ed work, you know so many interactions happen in the coaching world where you build your reputation and all that."

The bottom line to this tune-up is restoration.

"There was some regression," Desai said. "And we're going to overcome that but we're going to do in a positive way and we’re going to do it where the players are going to be able to shine through that defense."

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven