The Chicago Bears switched to a 3-4 defense for the first time in franchise history in 2015. They had lots of success with it, ranking in the top 10 in four of the past five seasons. It didn’t do much for overall team success, though. That led to a coaching change this off-season. Matt Eberflus was hired. With him comes the revival of the 4-3 defense, a familiar version Bears fans know well. It is a variation of the Tampa-2 scheme made famous during the Lovie Smith era in the 2000s.
Such changes require complex adjustments at every position group, especially the linebackers. In a 3-4, the outside linebackers are the pass rushers, and the inside linebackers are off-the-ball types. In a 4-3, all linebackers become off-the-ball types. Their responsibilities also change. Eberflus explained how in a 3-4, they’re required to take on offensive linemen and shed blocks. Now it is about playing off of what the defensive line does.
Roquan Smith is most notable among them. He spent the first four seasons of his career as a 3-4 inside linebacker. Now he’s shifting to the outside in this new 4-3. That is a tough adjustment. So it falls to the coaching staff to make the transition as smooth as possible. Linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi had an idea. Rather than go through the monotony of explaining things himself, he used game film to illustrate his points, according to Larry Mayer of Chicagobears.com. His players of choice? None other than Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
“They enjoy that,” Borgonzi said. “They like seeing the former players in the system play, whether it’s Chicago film, Tampa Bay film with coach [Tony] Dungy, Dallas film when coach Flus was there, Indianapolis. We always talk about the system and the style of play. I think they really enjoy doing that.”
Asked what he wants Bears linebackers to take away from watching Urlacher and Briggs, Borgonzi said: “How intense they were. How they took the ball away. Just how they had the defense down. They knew the issues or the problems and they could self-correct. That’s the biggest thing. How hard they played, how intense they played and how they took the ball away.”
Urlacher and Briggs were the best linebacking duo in the NFL for a good eight-year span from 2005 to 2012. The Bears defense ranked top 5 in the league four times with them together. The team also won three division titles and reached the Super Bowl in 2006. Opposing offenses had fits trying to deal with them because of their versatility against the run and in coverage.
When Smith arrived in 2004, Urlacher and Briggs were already in place. Eberflus doesn’t have the luxury of having inherited two Hall of Fame-caliber players. Three, if one includes Charles Tillman. So it might take time before a proper core of talent can be assembled. Roquan Smith deserves such consideration presuming he can make the transition. However, it looks like linebacker isn’t where this new version of the 4-3 may coalesce.
That would be the secondary. The Chicago Bears already had promising cornerback Jaylon Johnson in place when the off-season began. Then GM Ryan Poles added 2nd round picks Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker in the draft. Both have already stood out during the past month, especially Brisker. If they progress as many in the building hope, that secondary has a chance to be good for a long time.
They’ve expressed optimism about the new direction of the team. It is a style they know well. If it worked once before under Smith, then it should again. Eberflus may even have an advantage they didn’t a decade ago. That is the presence of a young quarterback to build around.
Ha. 3 comments already and all 3 beat me to it. This organization used to be about family. Using profane music (not my word for it) is highly inappropriate. Then again, the NFL celebrates terrorist groups on their fields and helmets so whatever, right?
Yeah. Turn the volume off or it will ruin the video.
No one on this current team are those two guys at linebacker.
Here’s to hoping the secondary steal the show.
Loved the tape of Urlacher/Briggs highlights. The music (if you can even call it music) was trash.
The Rap music playing during the video sucked!!
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