Bears Insider

Schrock: Time for Bears' invisible big-ticket defensive acquisitions to carry load vs. Broncos

With the offense scuffling and the secondary decimated, the Bears' front seven, especially the invisible big-money additions, must deliver against the Broncos

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears' best chance to snap their 13-game losing streak that stretches back to last season is obviously improved play from quarterback Justin Fields and an offense averaging just a shade over 15 points per game.

Their second best chance is finding a way to hit, affect, disrupt, and sack Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus' defense relies heavily on the defensive line's ability to get pressure with four. The Bears have not been able to do that through three weeks this season. In their first three losses, the Bears have played zone on over 70 percent of snaps but only have a pressure rate of 9 percent.

That's a recipe for disaster that has them with a league-worst one sack through three games. Through their first 10 quarters of play this season, the Bears had recorded just one sack and had not forced a turnover. They only have two turnovers on their ledger because Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw them two balls during garbage time in Week 3.

If Eberflus isn't going to blitz, the Bears' only hope on defense is for Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker, Justin Jones, and Andrew Billings to start winning upfront at a higher clip.

“You know, it’s something we got to do better," Eberflus said Wednesday at Halas Hall about getting to the quarterback. "We got to do it better. We’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to continue sending four guys and playing some coverage. We obviously got to send five some time, send six. But again, we just got to do a good job. We’ve gotten home some and we’ve missed some sacks in the pocket. We have to do a better job with that, making sure we do a good job of getting the guys down when we do have pressure. But again, that number has got to improve for sure.”

Wilson has already been sacked 10 times this season, which is ninth most in the NFL. Per Pro Football Focus, Broncos right tackle Mike McGlinchey has given up the fourth-most pressures among tackles (15). Guard Ben Powers is tied for 16th among guards with eight pressures allowed. Both McGlinchey and Powers have pass-block grades hovering in the low 50s.

That's something the Bears must take advantage of Sunday when the 0-3 Broncos visit Soldier Field.

"They come in bunches," Ngakoue said Wednesday. "Hopefully this week we can put everything together and be able to change that."

On the season, Ngakoue has one sack, 12 pressures, and a win rate of 6.7 percent, per PFF. That ranks 97th in the NFL. For $10 million a year, that's not good enough.

Billings, the Bears' run-stopping nose tackle, leads the team with a 14 percent pass-rush win rate. That's a bonus. Walker, meanwhile, checks in at 12.2 percent, which ranks 48th, but has yet to bring the quarterback down.

Rookie defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens have been non-factors in the pass rush. Pickens has yet to win a pass-rush rep, per PFF.

The lack of production from the Bears' role rushers makes Ngakoue's 6.7 percent win rate all the more alarming. The Bears brought him in to anchor this defensive line, and they need him to play up to that standard.

While the Bears haven't wreaked havoc in the backfield, they believe it's only a matter of time before their defensive line breaks through. After opening the season with just six total pressures against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears recorded 22 and 15 pressures, respectively, in Weeks 2 and 3.

That trend gives them hope that they'll be a party in the backfield soon.

"We have a lot of quarterback hits, a lot of quarterback hurries," Ngakoue said. "We just have to finish and maximize on those opportunities and bringing the quarterback down.

"Just keep scratching and clawing. Rushing is not about just giving up, it’s about continuing to fight. Like I said earlier, they come in bunches. We can have a game where we have more than five sacks, it’s all about just keep working."

The Bears, in fact, rank dead last in quarterback hits with nine. They also rank last in third down conversion rate allowed (62.0) and 25th in pressure percentage (30.6).

The Bears' lack of consistent pass rush has exposed linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, two big offseason additions, in pass coverage.

Per Next Gen Stats, opposing quarterbacks are 25-for-27 for 234 yards and two touchdowns when targeting Edmunds and Edwards this season.

Edmunds has been especially disappointing through three games Yes, he has been a tackling machine, but he has missed 14.3 percent of his tackles, hasn't forced, a fumble, and has not broken up a pass.

Those are troubling numbers for a guy the Bears shelled out a four-year, $72 million contract for to be a key cog in Eberflus' defense.

Early returns have been underwhelming. Eberflus has seen some good things from Edmunds, but the Bears are working with him to deliver impact plays.

"He’s had a lot of nice big hits in there I think will generate enthusiasm," Eberflus said Wednesday of Edmunds. "As he does those, he has to do a good job of punching the ball at the same time to create impact plays. We’re working on that. We’re working on lower his tackling a little bit to make sure he can get down to that position where you need to be to create those big plays. And he’s gonna work diligently to get that done.”

That needs to happen immediately.

As for Edwards, he is missing 8.7 percent of his tackles, which is a good number, but has been picked on in coverage and has yet to take the ball away.

It's not just Edmunds and Edwards who are being picked on, though. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 68.7 percent of their passes against the Bears for 8.7 yards per attempt. Those numbers rank 25th and 31st, respectively. The Bears are also allowing a passer rating of 110.9, which ranks 28th.

The Bears can't get to the quarterback, struggle to turn teams over, and their defense has been shredded because of it.

Sunday's game against the Broncos is one where the Bears' front seven must get home, and Eberflus, who will once again be calling the defensive plays, has to dial up the pressure to create turnovers.

In Week 2, the Broncos gave up 14 quarterback hits and seven sacks, per Pro Football Reference. They gave up 12 hits and one sack in their 70-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week.

The Broncos are the definition of beatable. The Bears need a win, or they are in danger of watching this season devolve quickly.

Ngakoue, Edmunds, Walker, and Edwards were the Bears' splashy defensive additions this offseason. They have been invisible thus far, and the numbers reflect MIA defensive stars.

With the offense lacking rhythm and explosiveness, the offensive line banged up, and the secondary likely down several key members, the Bears' big-ticket offseason additions -- Ngakoue, Edmunds, Walker, and Edwards -- must carry them to their first win of the season. They must stop the run, pressure Wilson, finish the job when they get home, and turn the ball over.

If Sunday isn't their moment, it might never arrive in 2023.

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