The Chicago Bears added talent at all three levels of the defense this off-season. As such, most expect greatly improved play from a unit that scraped by last season on sub-par personnel, most of whom were bad fits for coordinator Vic Fangio's system.
With free-agent acquisitions DE Akiem Hicks, ILBs Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, as well as first-round OLB Leonard Floyd and third-round DT Jonathan Bullard, Chicago's front seven should be the strength of this team in 2016.
"We upgraded our talent and I think it’s a big part," head coach John Fox said today. "I’m excited. I think you’ll see improvement from our defensive side of the ball.”
The fruits of Pace's labor will be reaped during the regular season, yet during training camp, which starts tomorrow, it's the offense who will benefit from a drastically upgraded defensive front.
"[During] OTAs, I felt it was night and day [compared to last year]," QB Jay Cutler said. "A lot more speed over there. A different attitude. A different swagger to them, if you will, especially the two inside guys. I mean those guys are flying around, they’re making the football team better."
Much of that speed comes from the the inside linebackers, particularly Trevathan, whose known as one of the quickest linebackers in the game. Trevathan has been to two Super Bowls the past three seasons and won a title with the Broncos last year.
"Danny’s kind of a quiet guy, but he’s one of those guys that kind of has an aura about himHe walks in and he’s got his chains on and he looks sharp every day, like he just left a video shoot or something. You see him on the field and you block him and he smells good. He wears cologne.
"But then you get caught up in the aroma and you get hit under the chin. And if you do get your hands on him to block him, he will fight like a crazy SOB to get off you, and he’ll get in your face and he’ll go after the ball. I think him and Jerrell do a lot of that the same. Danny’s won before. He was a signal caller on a Super Bowl defense. I believe he was s signal caller. Either way he’s won a damn Super Bowl and he played at a very high level. We love having Danny here.”
For Trevathan's part, the drive to win is just part of his personality.
“I’m all about attitude and hustle and just playing ball," Trevathan said. "I don’t care what happened before. You can always make up for it, just go 100 miles per hour and have fun. This game is short. Your attitude carries over to the team. There’s a lot of time when a team’s down you put your head down. I hate that. Even if we’re down we’re going to fight until the end. That’s what it’s all about, having that band of brothers and that attitude and going out there and battling together.”
With Trevathan and the other veteran additions, it's clear Pace focused this off-season on adding free agents from winning organizations. In addition to Trevathan, Freeman played in the AFC Championship two years ago, while Hicks played in the AFC Championship last season. Even on offense, new offensive linemen Bobby Massie and Ted Larsen both played in the NFC Championship for the Cardinals last year. That winning attitude has already spread throughout the Bears locker room.
"I’ve experienced a lot of new attitudes here in the last few years. This is above and beyond my favorite attitude that we’ve adopted," Long said. "People throw the words ‘culture’ around. I think it’s just taking pride in what you’re doing. You don’t get paid to play; you get paid to win. I’ve heard John Fox say that a million times, and I’m pretty sure I’ll hear it two million times this year. I couldn’t tell you how many games last year were one-, two-, three-point games, two-minute drives, late penalties, something stupid happens. But this team is really close. If we can really adopt this culture that we’re talking about, and this attitude and this personality that I know this defense has done a great job instilling in the rest of the locker room, it permeates that locker room.
"We’ll get our [butts] kicked in practice the whole day as an offense and we’ll come in and we’ll feel decently good about it because we know our defense is really good, and we haven’t had that before. So we’re excited."null