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New York Giants Week 4: First Look at Chicago Bears’ Defense

Brandon Olsen breaks down the Chicago Bears defense's personnel and schemes.

The New York Giants are a refreshing 2-1 to start the year, and while it hasn’t always looked pretty, they’re gotten the job done.

After facing two of the best pass-rushing teams in the league (Cowboys and Titans), the Giants finally face a Chicago Bears defense that has struggled so far in 2022.

Let's get to know who's who on the Bears' defense and how they're deployed.

Personnel

The Bears haven’t given him the contract extension he deserves yet, but linebacker Roquan Smith is the best player on this defense, and it isn’t particularly close. Smith has primarily played MIKE and WILL in this Matt Eberflus defense, arguably the most important position in that back seven.

Against the Texans in Week 3, Smith had eight stops for a gain of three or less in one of the season's most run-heavy games. In coverage, Smith has been nothing short of lockdown, allowing a passer rating of 27.4 through the first three weeks of the season. For reference, opposing quarterbacks would have a higher passer rating if they spiked the ball every play than if they targeted Smith in coverage.

In 2021, Robert Quinn had the second-most sacks in his NFL career (18, the most since he had 19 in 2013). But he has struggled of late to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Perhaps it was Quinn's move from playing with his hand up as an outside linebacker off the edge to now playing with a hand in the dirt in this new 4-3 defense that caused this drop. It could also just be that Quinn is now almost 33 years old and has taken a step back.

What Quinn has done much better in 2022 than in 2021 is make plays against the run. Quinn has done a solid job of containing the edge and slowing down a Texans rushing attack that frequently tried to run in his direction.

A pleasant surprise at pass-rusher has been Trevis Gipson, the third-year edge defender from Tulsa that had an under-the-radar season last year and is continuing his success in 2022.

Gipson registered 27 pressures last season on 229 pass-rush reps, good for a pressure on 11.8 percent of his pass-rush snaps. In 2022, Gipson has ten pressures in just 43 pass-rush snaps, a 23.3 percent clip. Although it’s incredibly unlikely he maintains that pressure rate, he has had at least two pressures in every game despite never playing more than 17 pass-rush snaps and already has two sacks on the season.

Another surprise rusher for the Bears has been Dominique Robinson, a fifth-round rookie out of Miami of Ohio. The Colts consistently found success with Day 3 selections on the defensive side of the ball, and it seems that Eberflus has been able to carry that success over to Chicago.

Robinson has had just 37 pass-rush opportunities but has already converted those into five pressures and two sacks.

On the back end, Eddie “BoJack” Jackson has been a star for most of his career, and in a defense that asks versatility from their safeties, he’s answered the call. Remember how we said Roquan Smith allowed a passer rating of 27.4 and that opposing NFL quarterbacks would be better off spiking the ball every play?

Jackson has been targeted three times this season and has come away with two interceptions and allowed a passer rating of just 2.8, the second-lowest among NFL defenders who have been targeted in coverage. Jackson has also allowed -1 yards in coverage.

The Chicago Bears will likely be without star cornerback Jaylon Johnson this Sunday as he nurses a quad injury. Johnson excelled in the first two games of the season, but with his likely absence, the Bears will again turn to Kindle Vildor, Kyler Gordon, and Jaylon Jones.

The duo of Vildor and Gordon has allowed 456 receiving yards so far this season, along with all three touchdowns the entire Bears defense has allowed in the air.

In the 2022 NFL Draft, there was a second-round pick that multiple NFL teams hoped would fall just a few more spots to them. Unfortunately for them, the Bears selected him with the 48th overall pick. That player is defensive back Jaquan Brisker, who has had his ups and downs so far in the NFL, but whose ceiling is about as high as it gets.

Brisker has already found his usage in the NFL to be very similar to his usage at Penn State. One of the most versatile defenders on this team already, Brisker has lined up as an edge rusher, a box safety, a nickel defender, cornerback, and deep safety. Eberflus has made it a point to move Brisker around the formation to maximize his impact, and Giants fans should be prepared to see the No. 9 all over the field.

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Scheme

Schematically, the Bears run with four down linemen on just about every play from scrimmage. This game will look different up front for the Giants, as they’re finally going to play a team that probably isn’t going to crowd the line of scrimmage.

The Bears would prefer generating pressure by rushing just four defensive linemen and dropping the rest of their defenders into zone coverage. More often than not, the Bears will have two linebackers and five defensive backs behind that line, but that’s typical in today’s NFL when teams usually run three wide receivers onto the field.

Primarily, the Bears like to run Cover-2 with five underneath defenders, similar to the old Bears defense with Lovie Smith at the helm. If the Bears aren’t playing Cover-2, then there’s a solid bet that they’re in Cover-3 or Cover-4.

Is Eberflus’ defense very creative? No, but there’s a reason his defenses in Indianapolis were consistently successful. Teams don’t need to be creative if they are well-coached enough to just go out and execute what they are asked to do.

The most creative thing the Bears will do on the back end is present themselves with a single deep safety look and then post-snap shift to have two deep safeties.

Up front, Giants fans will see this Bears defensive line run stunts and twists, which the Titans used to find success against this Giants offensive line in Week 1. Expect Eberflus to dial these up early and often against the Giants in hopes of generating some early turnovers.

What Does This All Mean for the Giants?

This might seem the most obvious thing ever, but let’s have some fun. Going back to the personnel section of this article, was a single interior defensive lineman even mentioned?

No. Why is this significant? The Giants have the second-most productive rushing attack in the NFL right now. And do you know which NFL team is tied for the second-most rushing yards allowed so far?

The answer is the Chicago Bears.

The Giants need to run the ball and attack the Bears interior defensive line. Robert Quinn has done a solid job of containing big runs on the edge, but the interior of this Bears defense is porous, particularly at both defensive tackle spots. The stage is set for Saquon Barkley to have a monster game against the Bears on the ground.

As far as throwing the ball, there are a few ways that the Giants' offense could attack the Bears on the second level and deep in the secondary. It starts with the protection holding up, whether the Giants have a five, six, or seven-man protection set up.

With this Cover-2 heavy defense, attacking the Bears deep down the middle of the field should be a focal point. The unfortunate issue is that Daniel Jones has attempted just two passes deep over the middle, and they both fell incomplete. It’s not something to do often, but so far, against the Bears, opposing quarterbacks have attempted that pass three times, completing two for 107 yards.

More consistently, opposing offenses have used screen passes to pick up short, near-guaranteed yards against the Bears with the potential for a chunk play. Running screens against zone coverage allows one to create a numbers advantage for your offense and have blockers lead the way for explosive plays. The Bears have allowed quarterbacks to go three of six for 16 yards, seven of eight for 69 yards and a touchdown, and four of four for 8 yards.

Final Thoughts

For years, the Bears defensive scheme was to have a 4-3 front that could generate pressure up front without blitzing and having seven defenders in coverage, with their eyes in the backfield. Eventually, the Bears shifted to a 3-4 defense that caused more havoc and confusion for offensive lines.

Now in 2022, under Eberflus, that old Bears defense is back. Unfortunately for Eberflus and Bears fans, the talent isn’t yet up to snuff to consistently and successfully contain offenses.

The Giants know what the Bears will want to do schematically, but it’s just a matter of being able to expose the weak spots talent-wise that hold back this Bears' defense.


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