Cupboard awfully bare on Bears defensive line
Over the last 40 years, the Bears have had some of the fiercest pass rushers in the history of the NFL.
• Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael wreaked havoc on the league in the 1980s.
• Julius Peppers was a towering menace from 2010-13.
• Khalil Mack smacked QBs around from 2018 until he was traded to the Chargers last off-season.
• And, of course, we must include Robert Quinn, who set the franchise record for sacks at 18½ last season.
With Quinn being shipped off to the Eagles a month ago, the cupboard is awfully bare for these Bears, and it's one reason Matt Eberflus' squad has allowed 35.5 points per game during their current four-game losing streak.
The Bears have 15 sacks on the season, second-worst in the NFL. Incredibly, the team leaders are rookie safety Jaquan Brisker (3) and departed linebacker Roquan Smith (2½).
Trevis Gipson and Justin Jones lead the D-linemen with 2 each, with Gipson's coming way back in Week 2 at Green Bay.
Let's pile on a bit more by mentioning that the Bears have a paltry 4 sacks and 12 QB hits in the last five games.
There are multiple reasons for the wretched production, not the least of which is the Bears' inability to consistently shut down the opponent's running game.
"Third-and-5, third-and-6 is not good enough," Jones said. "We need more third-and-10s, third-and-12s. Those are the times where we (can) start making those big plays. Once we get that you'll see sack production go up."
It's a theme often repeated by Gipson, defensive coordinator Alan Williams and defensive line coach Travis Smith. Stopping the run doesn't always equal more sack production, however. Dallas, which leads the league with 45 sacks, is 22nd against the run (131.9 yards per game). The Eagles (19th vs. the run) are next with 37 sacks, followed by the Saints (32), who are 23rd vs. the run.
The Cowboys have a top-notch rusher in Micah Parsons, but he's getting plenty of help from high-motor teammates.
The Bears, meanwhile, are struggling with an underwhelming group. Jones signed a two-year deal in the offseason to play the all-important three-technique tackle in Williams' 4-3 scheme. He's been a solid leader in the room and has done a decent job on the field, leading all D-linemen with 31 tackles and 8 tackles for loss.
After that, we've seen flashes out of Gipson and rookie Dominique Robinson, but that's about it. Armon Watts, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Mike Pennel and Angelo Blackson have been mostly ineffective.
"I need a quicker get-off," Gipson said two weeks ago. "I really just got to keep being relentless. I have to start going for the ball more. There's been a couple times I went for the quarterback and not the ball. Little stuff like that ... that I need to retouch up."
D-line coach Smith loves the raw athleticism of Robinson, whom the Bears drafted in the fifth round. Robinson's worst game came last week against the Falcons when he wasn't showing the all-out effort that was present in the previous 10 games.
"That's not who you are. You've been a leader in the room from a sense of effort," Smith told Robinson in their weekly meeting. "He had a high number of (loafs). It wasn't anything that he did on purpose. It's just understanding what the standard is. He's set the standard.
"So if it's not there or better every week, then what are we doing? We've got to make sure we're stacking those positive, productive performances.
"He knew that right away (and) said, 'Hey, I'm gonna make sure that I address it and it's gonna be taken care of.' "
Other factors obviously factor into sack production, not the least of which is how well the secondary is covering the receivers. There are numerous examples the past three weeks where quarterbacks hit their primary option on third-and-7, third-and-8 and even second-and-15.
"Coverage sack" is indeed a foreign term to these Bears.
With six games remaining, it's extremely unlikely the Bears will "break" the franchise's record for fewest sacks in a season. The 2003 squad holds that dubious mark with 18. Alex Brown was the leader with just 5½.
The Bears have been below 30 only one other time (2008) since the NFL began tracking stats as an official stat in 1982. This group figures to have a difficult time hitting that number.
On Sunday, it will be interesting to see if the Bears can harass Jets QB Mike White at the Meadowlands. The 27-year-old is playing in just his sixth NFL game due to the benching of Zach Wilson.
The Jets have only a mediocre rushing attack and have yielded 25 sacks in 10 games.
In the big picture, Williams is adamant that his defensive linemen can be better and that midseason adjustments can be made to improve everyone's all-around game.
"That's what we're working on," he said. "Mix it up. "We're bringing pressure, we're rushing four, we've done some different things there. And then technique and continue to give great effort.
"We would like our front four to lead our team in sacks. It's not happening right now, but we look for that to change as we go on.
"To the credit of our guys, they're upset about it that they're not leading ... but they're still working their tails off."
By the numbersBears sack leadersPlayer No.
Jaquan Brisker 3
Roquan Smith 2.5
Jack Sanborn 2
Trevis Gipson 2
Justin Jones 2
Dominique Robinson 1.5
Robert Quinn 1
Al-Quadin Muhammad 1
NFL team sack leadersTeam No.
1. Dallas Cowboys 45
2. New England Patriots 37
3. Philadelphia Eagles 33
4. San Francisco 49ers 32
4. Kansas City Chiefs 32
4. New York Jets 32
4. New Orleans Saints 32
4. Tampa Bay Bucs 32
29. Cincinnati Bengals 16
29. Jacksonville Jaguars 16
31. CHICAGO BEARS 15
32. Las Vegas Raiders 13
Bears since 2010:Season No. Leader
2021 49 R. Quinn, 18.5
2020 35 K. Mack, 9
2019 32 Mack, 8.5
2018 50 Mack, 12.5
2017 42 A. Hicks, 8.5
2016 37 W. Young, 7.5
2015 35 L. Houston, 8
2014 39 Young, 10
2013 31 J. Peppers, 7
2012 41 Peppers, 11.5
2011 33 Peppers, 11
2010 34 Peppers, Idonije, 8