In this week's edition of 'Take 2', Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times and Kevin Fishbain of Pro Football Weekly debate the biggest needs for the Bears' defense heading into 2017.
Fishbain: A second concussion in six weeks may mean another missed game for Leonard Floyd, who told us last week he was disappointed he didn't play in all 16 games this season. At times, Patrick, we saw the flashes and why Ryan Pace traded up for the athletic freak of a pass rusher, and a full offseason should only make Floyd stronger and better in 2017. With Willie Young and Pernell McPhee, the Bears have been pretty good getting after the passer, but you can never have enough edge rushers. Did you see enough from the trio of outside linebackers to move pass rusher down your 2017 priority list?
Finley: Are we sure Pernell McPhee is back next year? The Bears love his attitude and intangibles, but his guaranteed money dries up after this season. They can walk away from him this offseason with little penalty. I don’t think you can ever have too many pass rushers, Kevin, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they took one in the draft. Would they draft one high? Not when they need a quarterback, cornerback, safety (or two) and maybe a tight end or tackle. And do they need a receiver?
Fishbain: McPhee isn't the only pass rusher who may not return next season. Will Lamarr Houston be back? This regime (assuming it returns) obviously puts a big emphasis on the outside linebacker position — follow the money. But when analyzing the Bears' issues and lack of depth, outside linebacker is not a high priority. Quarterback is obvious, but how about defensive back? Will this team invest a high pick in a safety for once? That position has been a revolving door this season of players who haven't produced at a high level. Corner tends to be a more important position, though, along with receiver and tackle, but I can't see how they can continue to ignore the safety spot.
Finley: I’ve always thought that good safeties were greater than their statistics, too — a thumper can force turnovers and help set a physical tone, while the threat of a ball-hawk prevents the offense from trying throws that they ordinarily would pursue. Both the edge rusher and safety questions come back to this, Kevin: no one has fewer takeaways than the Bears’ 10, and only the Jets can claim a worse differential than the Bears’ -16. Can that get fixed overnight just by adding new, more dynamic players?
Fishbain: The Bears definitely think that the pass rush should be how this team creates turnovers, considering the investment in the position, but they haven't seen nearly enough of that. It's not easy to find that playmaking, ball-hawking defensive back — the last DB the Bears drafted early, Kyle Fuller, hasn't worked out since his first two NFL games. Last offseason, Pace upgraded the inside linebacker position more than any team upgraded any position all offseason. Maybe he does that in the secondary this time around?
Finley: Well, they drafted three defensive backs last year — cornerbacks Deiondre Hall and DeAndre Houston-Carson and safety Deon Bush — and only Bush has received steady playing time. But to answer your question: I think if the Bears see a chance to throw money at their defensive back problem, they will — if for no other reason but to keep their option of drafting a first-round quarterback in play. This critical offseason is about more than just Jay Cutler, Kevin. It’s about plugging the myriad holes the Bears have to try to progress in Year 3 of the rebuild. If that doesn’t go well, there may not be a Year 4.