Even Robert Hoover, president of Delta House, wouldn't be optimistic about midterm grades bringing up the average of the Bears' defense, which has been more than a little below par.
The numbers paint a haunting picture (think Edvard Munch's The Scream).
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The Bears are dead-last 32nd in average gain per pass allowed, 31st in sack percentage, 28th in points allowed and third-down efficiency, 27th in passing yards allowed, 26th in total yards allowed and 25th in rushing yards allowed.
At its current pace, this defense will yield more points and yards than any Bears team in history. Injuries have certainly taken a toll, but they have also exposed a unit nearly devoid of quality depth.
This group was not playing well even before season-ending knee injuries to Henry Melton (Week Three) and Nate Collins (Week Five) plus a toe injury that kept Stephen Paea out of Games Six and Seven. The interior of the line has been so decimated that street free agent Landon Cohen got game snaps at tackle two days after he was signed and started a game 11 days later. Defensive end Corey Wootton has been forced to move inside to tackle and has still been more effective than any of his linemates. His move inside has meant more snaps for ends Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin, and it's a toss-up over which one has been a bigger disappointment. The knock on Peppers, even while he was being voted to eight Pro Bowls, was that he occasionally took a play off. So far, he's taken the 2013 season off. The undersized McClellin may be miscast as a 4-3 defensive end because he lacks the bulk to set the edge vs. the run, and he hasn't been able to add much to a pass-rush that may be the worst in the NFL. Linemen have combined for just 4 sacks, and no one has more than 1. Paea was playing effectively before his injury, but he looked rusty in his first game back vs. Washington. Rookie free agent end David Bass has flashed some ability to penetrate. Sorely missed is Israel Idonije, who could've been retained for a tiny fraction of what Peppers is being paid but was allowed to leave in free agency. Grade: F.
Lance Briggs was outstanding on the weak side, but a fractured shoulder vs. Washington will keep him sidelined until December. Newcomer James Anderson has performed well on the strong side. D.J. Williams started slowly after missing all of the preseason with a calf injury and then suffered a season-ending chest injury in Week Six, just as he was beginning to knock off the rust. That forced rookie second-round pick Jon Bostic into the lineup. He looked lost at times in his first start in Week Seven, but he has the tools to be an impact player once he gets comfortable in the scheme. Grade: B-minus.
Cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings have not lost their knack for toughness and for taking the ball away. They each have 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles and have covered well, considering the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The safeties are another story. Chris Conte and Major Wright have both been deficient in coverage, and their plays on the ball have been few and far between. Add in an abundance of missed tackles, especially by Wright, and it's tough to defend the last line of defense. Grade: D.
Robbie Gould barely missed a 34-yard FG attempt against Washington, proving that he's human. That's the only kick the third-most-accurate FG kicker in NFL history has missed in 13 tries, including 2 from beyond 50 yards. P Adam Podlesh got off to a rocky start and bottomed out in Detroit in Week Four. The Bears took a look at some free-agent punters, but Podlesh rediscovered his stroke and has had three straight strong games. Devin Hester's 81-yard punt-return TD against the Skins was his 19th career return TD, tying him with Deion Sanders for No. 1 all-time. Hester is fourth in the NFL with a 13.3-yard average on punt returns and fifth in kickoff returns (29.3). Coverage units have been disappointing, ranking 30th on punts and 22nd on kickoffs. Grade: B-minus.
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