Nathan Jahnke breaks down the team needs for the teams in the NFC North for Pro Football Focus. As he does so, he exposes these alarming facts about the Bears new linebacking corps:
“The problem is that [new strong side linebacker *James] Anderson has not been great in run defense, and has in fact only been getting worse with a –6.7 PFF run defense rating in 2012, which was fifth-worst among 4–3 outside linebackers. Chances are [new middle linebacker D.J.] Williams and [weakside linebacker Lance] Briggs will play in the nickel defense, so Anderson’s main role will be stopping the run.”
“While [Williams] didn’t play much in 2012, in previous years he was consistently among the lowest rated run defenders in the league.”
We’re all aware that the Bears linebackers are an aging group. That alone justifies making the position a priority in the draft if possible. But when I start reading “weak against the run”, I get worried not about the future, but about 2013.
The cover two based scheme the Bears run is notorious for being weak against the run to begin with. Anyone who follows the Colts can tell you what it was like on occasion when Tony Dungy coached the team there. Defending the run was often their Achilles heal.
Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli did an outstanding job of avoiding this problem while they were here. A lot of that was good recognition and good, tough down hill play from the linebackers whenever they saw a run develop. Its too early to tell but if past history is representative of future earnings, but with this current group of linebackers the Bears may have see a problem in this area in 2013.