The Chicago Bears defense ranked at the bottom of the NFL in 2013, but the man in charge of it, Mel Tucker, will get a chance to coach the unit for a second consecutive season.
After allowing the most points (478), total yards (6,313) and rushing yards (2,583) in franchise history, the Bears opted to retain Tucker and fire positional coaches Mike Phair and Tim Tibesar.
The defensive line coach Phair came to the Bears in 2011 and was one of the few holdovers from the Lovie Smith coaching staff besides secondary coach Jon Hoke.
Phair saw defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins both go down with torn ACL's. They missed 24 games combined and Stephen Paea sat out of three with a turf toe.
Not to mention Corey Wootton was forced to play every position along the defensive line including at defensive tackle, where he never once played at.
Also, the 33-year-old Julius Peppers regressed adding 7.5 sacks, but appeared non-existent in many games on the year. Second-year man Shea McClellin didn't flash much besides when he knocked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of action on Monday Night Football. General manager Phil Emery admitted McClellin may be playing out of position.
Tibesar, who served as the linebackers coach this season spent time with head coach Marc Trestman in Montrael of the CFL from 2009-11 before becoming the defensive coordinator at Purdue in 2012.
The injuries to D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs really set the linebacking core back a bit as rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene were asked a ton more as starters.
Williams played in six games all season, while Briggs fought his way back from a shoulder injury to play in nine. Bostic and Greene couldn't handle the duties next to veteran James Anderson and it showed.
The middle of the Bears defense was a mess due to injuries and personnel problems, both coaches from those positions got the boot and rightfully so.
Not saying it is 100 percent their faults that the defense was one of the worst in the entire league, but they sure didn't help patch things up.
Offenses were running through this defense with ease. I'm surprised to see Hoke stay as the secondary struggled a ton, but I think that had more to do with the players in place than the coaches.
Safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright were lost all season in deep coverage and injuries to veterans Charles Tillman and Kelvin Hayden really set this group back.
The losses of three Pro Bowlers Melton, Tillman and Briggs for a good portion of the season stung the most. It not only took away their talent off the field, but also leadership on and off of it.
Keeping Mel Tucker was the right move. Do you know why?
Chemistry and trust.
"We believe Mel is the right person to lead our defensive unit," Trestman said. "He fully understands where we need to improve, has the skill set and leadership to oversee the changes that need to be made and to execute our plan to get the results we know are necessary."
Before all the injuries and struggles this defense actually looked very similar to Lovie's unit of old. They created turnovers and stopped the run very well.
They forced 11 turnovers after three weeks, going a perfect 3-0 in the process. That included a season-high five turnover performance (3 fumbles, 2 INT's) in Pittsburgh in Week Three.
They allowed an average of 88.6 rushing yard per game and only 3.5 yards per rush through three games.
But the mixture of an aging defense, with bad fortune and a couple of new pieces and this unit quickly fell apart.
Tucker can't be solely to blame. It wasn't his fault each and every week. He wasn't able to call up blitzes after Week Three because he didn't trust the unit he had out there and that's not good.
In the Cover-Two scheme, the defense relies on pressure from the front four and creative blitzes. But the pressure was quiet and the blitzes weren't being drawn up because the personnel simply wasn't right and Tucker knew that.
Without the consistent pressure from Peppers and Co. it made things that much harder for the other units behind the defensive line, including the inexperienced linebackers and confused safety tandem.
Tucker tried to dumb things down plenty with young and inexperienced players out there, but the defense still struggled, specifically to get pressure and to simply stay in their gaps.
Tucker's defenses by the numbers
He has been part of some very bad teams prior to coming to Chicago this off-season.
Tucker has plenty of experience, especially in the Tampa-Two shell. It isn't the same defense Smith ran for so many years, but a lot of the verbiage and principles are the same.
Before coming to the NFL, Tucker coached in college from 1999-2004.
1999: Miami (Ohio) - defensive backs coach, 2000: LSU - defensive backs coach, 2001-2003: Ohio State - defensive backs coach, 2004: Ohio State - defensive coordinator.
He has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL for the last five seasons.
The one spectacular season he had was in 2011 with a Jaguars team that finished the season 5-11, but finished 11th overall allowing roughly 20.5 ppg and only 3.8 ypc.
If the Bears can add some legitimate pass rushers, add athletic replacements for Conte and Wright and re-sign the veteran LB Williams and Tillman and this defense has a chance.
The focus heading into the 2014 NFL Draft will be mainly on the defense and rightfully so.
Emery has this team in the right direction. Now by adding some veterans and some weapons for Tucker to with and the Bears could be much improved on the defensive side of the ball.
I'm not saying a couple of players will make everything right, but making changes and getting this unit younger and more talented will do plenty moving forward.
Tucker is the right man to lead the charge. Just look at the first three weeks of the season as his true doing and after that point just complete chaos that he couldn't control much at all.
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