Bears

Bears In-Foe: Washington defense added Josh Norman, but still just normal

Bears In-Foe: Washington defense added Josh Norman, but still just normal

A defense that ranked 28th in 2015 (26th vs. the run, 25th vs. the pass) hadn't been able to make a splash in the first month of free agency until the Carolina Panthers made a business decision to part ways with star cornerback Josh Norman. In swooped owner Daniel Snyder, whose team needed to do SOMETHING to boost that side of the ball to help out an emerging offense. 

Five years, $75 million. $50 million guaranteed. Norman has one interception, 14 passes defended, and came under early criticism for staying locked in on the right side, no matter where the opposition's best receiver went. And Washington's 2016 defense still ranks no higher than 22nd in any of the following categories: points per game, rushing, passing, total yards, third-down percentage and red-zone TD percentage. Suddenly, after Monday's 26-15 home loss to Carolina showed his unit can't overcome a down day from the offense, coordinator Joe Barry's future is in further question.

There's a need for deeper talent, especially in the secondary. Bashaud Breeland, safeties' Donte Whitner and Will Blackmon, and nickel back Quinton Dunbar (who beat out third-round rookie Kendall Fuller, Kyle's brother) have combined for just three interceptions to go along with Norman's one, which are secondary numbers Bears fans are all too familiar with.

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It's not like there's not talent on the second level. Washington's gotten most of its 36 sacks right there in the 3-4. Underrated Ryan Kerrigan is tied for fifth with 11 sacks this season, though he left Monday game with an elbow injury.  Former second-rounder Trent Murphy finally rounded into form in his third season with eight sacks, while last year's second-rounder Preston Smith has four takedowns. That trio sandwiches inside `backers Will Compton (who remained at a team-high 101 tackles despite missing Monday's game with a knee injury) and Bears 2015 training camp castoff Mason Foster (99 tackles). They also rotate in hybrid safety Su'a Cravens who was sidelined vs. the Panthers with his own elbow injury. Based on the secondary's troubles, he could well be moved to the back full-time next season.

Up front, steady free agent-to-be end Chris Baker has 4.5 sacks, but after nose tackle Kedric Golston's early season-ending injury, Ziggy Hood, who had a cup of coffee with the Bears at this time last season, is their usual man in the middle. Veteran Cullen Jenkins was brought in early in the season to start at left end. Junior Galette, who had 22 sacks over two years in New Orleans, is spending his second straight year recovering from an offseason achilles tear, one in each leg. But in another similarity to the Bears' fate vs. the Packers, Washington was gashed for 148 yards rushing in its Monday night loss.

Special teams

Chris Thompson matches the Bears' Deonte Thompson with a 21.2-yard kickoff return average. The biggest weapon is second-year slot/punt returner Jamison Crowder, whose 13.1-yard punt return average ranks second in the NFL and includes a touchdown, is quite the test for the Bears' 30th-ranked punt coverage squad. Kicker Dustin Hopkins is 31-of-38 this season, but missed his third extra point of the season against the Panthers/

Where should Khalil Mack rank among all-time best Bears?

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USA TODAY

Where should Khalil Mack rank among all-time best Bears?

One season was all it took for Khalil Mack to enter the conversation among the all-time best Bears players.

Six forced fumbles, 12.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, four pass breakups and one pick six kept him in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation despite an ankle injury.

It’s hard to stack one dominant season against players who maintained excellence over multiple years, but Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson did just that in their ranking of the top 100 Bears players of all time.

For Mack’s efforts in 2018, he came in 60th on the list, one spot behind former defensive end Julius Peppers.

Richard Dent is the only player in Bears history to record more than 12.5 sacks in a season, and Mack’s production was tied for the third best year for the franchise since they started recording sacks in 1982.

Peppers hit double-digit sacks twice in his four years in Chicago with three trips to the Pro Bowl, but Pompei and Pierson may have been hesitant to rank Mack too highly given how little time he’s spent at Halas Hall.

The star outside linebacker is not the 60th most talented player in team history, but in terms of best contributions while on the Bears, his lack of tenure could be what keeps him lower on the list.

If he continues at his current rate, he should rise near the top of the rankings after another few seasons.

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Hall of Fame writers rank Jay Cutler behind Brandon Marshall on all-time Bears list

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USA TODAY

Hall of Fame writers rank Jay Cutler behind Brandon Marshall on all-time Bears list

The summer days of the offseason are prime ranking season, and the Bears official website is entering the mix as part of the team’s 100th season celebration.

Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson ranked the top 100 players in franchise history for their upcoming centennial scrapbook, and Monday the team released the first 25 names on the list.

The biggest standout was quarterback Jay Cutler, who ranked 85th.

Plenty of Hall of Famers should rank above the Bears’ all-time leading passer, but 84 is quite a few.

It’s hard to compare a modern quarterback to players from previous decades, like 82nd-ranked George Blanda, but Cutler even came in behind the likes of wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, neither of whom spent more than five years in Chicago.

Third-year safety Eddie Jackson also made an appearance at 96 on the list, and beloved former long snapper Patrick Mannelly started off the list at 100.