So just how good can Bears 'D' be? Does the talent match the hype
One thing we thought we knew about the Chicago Bears coming into the 2018 season was they had a chance to be pretty good on defense.
After all, they were 10th in total defense, 9th in points allowed, 6th in QB sack percentage and an OK 15th in TO/TA Ratio at +0 in spite of just 8 interceptions last year.
There was concern with the departures of Pernell McPhee, Lamar Houston and Willie Young where the pass rush would come from this year, but Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks offered enough promise to believe they'd be OK.
Then came the drafting of Roquan Smith, trade for Khalil Mack and the 41 -- plus minute shutout they pitched at Lambeau Field last Sunday night, and the question became wait a minute, are these the '85 Bears?
Yes, the last 19 minutes versus the Packers were a disaster, but you don't throw the baby out with the bath water, and no, there will never be another team like the '85 Bears.
When you throw out the emotion and whatever happened last Sunday and just evaluate the talent you get to this defense can be very, very good.
I've been doing this a really long time and I can't remember 30 minutes of dominance like we saw from Mack vs. the Packers, but we already knew he was a Defensive MVP at 25.
What may be more important is the effect he has on the rest of the defense.
Consider the impression he made on second year safety Eddie Jackson.
"It was exciting to see, man. So we knew what he was capable of and for him to come out here and do it on the field with us, it was amazing to see."
Akiem Hicks may never be an MVP but he should have been a Pro Bowler last year, he's one of the best five-techniques in football and he is as motivated as the youngster Jackson by Mack.
"Did you see Khalil's, where he just snatches the ball from him? Who does that? You dream about that type of play, you know? Pretty cool."
When the Bears drafted Leonard Floyd at nine and Roquan Smith at eight it was because they believe each has Mack type ability.
Injuries have slowed Floyd's development, but head coach Matt Nagy is pleased with where he's at in spite of his playing hurt right now.
"For the most part, we love where he's at. He's playing fast. He feels good. I think he's doing everything he can right now to be the best player."
While we don't know yet exactly how Smith will project at the next level, resume pieces don't come much better than SEC Defensive MVP.
It's not just that as I wrote recently, who can remember a team that had three top 10 picks -- Mack, Floyd and Smith -- in a four-man linebacker group, as badly as they've drafted over the last decade when was the last time the Bears had five first round picks (add Kyle
Fuller -- 14 and Prince Amukamara -- 19) starting on defense plus a two in Eddie Goldman and threes in Jonathan Bullard and Hicks?
The natural talent on this defense still gets better when you realize most analysts agree Eddie Jackson could have been a first-round pick and at worst a second were it not for his injury history at Alabama, and there is great depth as well with Roy Robertson-Harris, Sam Acho, Nick Kwiatkoski, Aaron Lynch and Bryce Callahan all having documented big play ability.
Beyond all that, Vic Fangio clearly knows what to do with his wealth of weapons, and because of the tremendous athleticism of almost every one of these kids most of them can be used in a number of different ways.
And of course they are kids, one of the youngest groups in the league.
Clearly the proof will have to come on the field but there is every reason to believe this defense is going to be truly special.
• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.