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updated: 8/9/2014 8:24 PM

Bears defense already looks much better

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  • Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throws a pass under pressure from Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff during Friday's preseason opener at Soldier Field.

    Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throws a pass under pressure from Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff during Friday's preseason opener at Soldier Field.
    Associated Press


If first impressions can be trusted, the Bears' defense, an embarrassment last season, should be much improved.

The run defense -- the NFL's worst last season, and one of the worst in Bears history -- didn't get a true test, since Eagles stud running back LeSean McCoy carried just one time for zero yards. Mainly because of McCoy, the Eagles led the NFL in rushing yards and average gain per rush last season.

But Philadelphia's shifty Darren Sproles managed just 11 yards on three attempts. As a team, the Eagles totaled 76 yards on 18 carries, for a 4.2-yard average, identical to the NFL average last year.

"I thought the tackling early on was good," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "With special teams and with our first (defensive) group, we had solid, clean tackling and some clean tackling on the perimeter. We didn't fit everything up, but overall we saw some encouraging things in that regard."

The exception was a 102-yard kickoff return by Eagles rookie Josh Huff that made the Bears' 34-28 victory appear to be more of an offensive shootout that it was.

Most encouraging for the Bears were the 3 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery, which gave them a plus-1 edge in the takeaway-turnover battle.

Starting safety Ryan Mundy had the Bears' first pick. Later picks came from veteran Sherrick McManis and undrafted rookie Al Louis-Jean, both fighting for roster spots at cornerback. Second-year linebacker Khaseem Greene recovered a fumble at the Eagles' 29 early in the second half and returned it 10 yards to set up a Robbie Gould 26-yard field goal.

Another encouraging sign for the defense, which was rebuilt after allowing more points than any team in franchise history, was the pass rush.

The Bears' only sack came from backup defensive end David Bass, but the first-team D-line pressured Eagles quarterback Nick Foles into a pair of interceptions. Foles threw just 2 picks last season on 317 pass attempts.

"In the opening game, the offenses keep it pretty basic," Mundy said of his first interception. "The quarterback's not looking (defenders) off too much. So that's an opportunity for us to work on our vision on the quarterback and get a good break. And basically that's what happened on that play."

Among a crowded group of safeties vying for two starting spots, Mundy has played the most snaps with the first team. He and Danny McCray started Friday night, while rookie Brock Vereen and 14th-year veteran Adrian Wilson took over in the second quarter.

Former Lion Willie Young, one of five free-agent defensive ends the Bears brought in to spark a unit that tied for the fewest sacks in the NFL last season, put early pressure on Foles. Young started at right end in place of Jared Allen, who missed most of last week to be with his wife for the birth of their second daughter.

Allen's absence also provided more snaps for seventh-year veteran Trevor Scott, attempting to earn a backup spot. Scott led all Bears D-linemen with 3 solo tackles and drew a holding call against Eagles starting left tackle Jason Peters.

Only four of the Bears' defensive starters Friday started at the same position on opening day last season, but they didn't allow any points to the Eagles' starters on three possessions.

"So far, I think we're doing a good job (of jelling)," Mundy said. "We're keeping it simple. The (Eagle') up tempo (was) helping us communicate a little bit better to make sure everyone's on the same page. I think we did a good job of that."

For the game the Eagles had 359 total yards, 58 fewer than they averaged last season.

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