Maybe I'm starting to beat a dead horse with so much attention and focus on the Bears defense, but in a way I sort of take it personally when fans and analysts start to question the defense.
For the last three to four years people have done preseason predictions and evaluations on the defense an as always the age of the defense comes up. Is this the year the Bears defense finally slows down? Will age catch up with the defense?
These questions and more continue to circulate in just about every article on the Bears defense there is. What most people fail to understand is just how dominant the defense was in 2011, yet again. What they also fail to consider is that this defense will be as dominant in 2012.
Not to toot my own horn here, but I didn't need to read the FootballOutsiders Almanac to understand how dominant the defense was. I did a very recent article describing the level of competition the Bears faced on offense as a defensive unit, but that probably still doesn't do it justice.
So you into stats that are more readily important, metrics that go beyond what you find on the internet and it only reaffirms what you have rattling around in your head.
However I'll let the FBOA take it from here:
Year in and year out, the Bears manage to get as much out of their front seven as most defenses would get out of a front eight. The Bears led the league by allowing just 3.29 Adjusted Line Yards per carry; the gap between the Bears and the second-place Jets was equal to the gap between the Jets and the 15th place Steelers.
What this metric essentially states is the Bears are the best run defense in the NFL because they only allow around 3.29 yards per rush. This takes into account elusive running backs, great offensive lines, blocking everything. The metric takes into account how well the play was blocked, and if the running back made yards on his own, by either a broken tackle or made a player miss a tackle To draw upon a football cliche that makes it better to understand, "that play was so well blocked nobody touched him" that's a play that was so well blocked that the running back gets some credit, but only for running away from the defense. The next cliche, "He keeps driving his legs and never goes down, always gaining yards by keeping the pile moving forward". This can be best described as a running back who may have who was involved in a pile up but gets credit for getting positive yards anyway.
Same with taking into account Barry Sanders or LeSean McCoy's elusiveness that's what the Adjust Line Yards Per Carry takes into account. The Bears defensive front seven was the best in the NFL, so good in fact that they play better than a vast majority of teams who stack the box with eight men.
The Bears will maintain that dominance in 2012, perhaps even improve upon that number with addition of Stephen Paea. Paea being a big strong and fast defensive tackle can hold up at the point and also get down the line in pursuit or attack gaps with his speed.
Even more under appreciated, even by me, is the impact that Israel Idonije had on the Bears defense. FootballOutsiders measures their defensive success by the impact each player has on defense with tackles, sacks, hits, hurries, pass deflected, tackles for a loss etc. Every possible play that a player can make on defense whether the front four or the linebackers FO takes that into account.
On the front four Israel Idonije was nearly as good of a player as Julius Peppers. Idonije by FO stats made 50 plays to Peppers' 40 plays. Idonije also had a higher percentage of plays on a per snap basis 6.1% to 4.9%. What this metric essentially shows is Israel Idonije made more plays on defense at DE than Julius Peppers.
This even further means that Shea McClellin will need to come and do a lot to supplant Idonije as a starter. Where McClellin needs to have the biggest impact is as a third defensive end, the Bears had some of the worst production from the third DE spot of any team in the league. Chauncey Davis made so few plays on the defensive line, that he didn't qualify to be measured for his overall production. Same goes for Mario Addison and Nick Reed, two players that had no business on the 53-man roster.
On pass defense the Bears don't have the high total of sacks that gets the rave reviews of fans and analysts. When you hear analysts on the TV talk they don't take into account that the Bears got 96-percent of their sacks from their front four the highest percentage in the NFL. They also rushed with four defenders fourth most of any defense in the league.
In the secondary the Bears pass defense success was led by Charles Tillman who had 112 plays, followed by Tim Jennings with 86 and Major Wright with 65 plays. Wright was ahead of all safeties on the roster, Craig Steltz had 40 plays which was second among safeties, with primary starter Chris Conte had the lowest total with 31 stops.
The secondary analysis reveals that Major Wright was the best performing safety on the roster last year but was pushed by Craig Steltz. This means that if he stays healthy Wright should lock down the starting spot, while Conte will need to step up remarkably to be a competent free safety.