Aaron Lynch has played 234 defensive snaps this season, or 22.9 percent overall. The Bears’ No. 3 outside linebacker has been whistled seven times for offsides/neutral zone infractions, one every 33.4 snaps. By contrast, Kyle Fuller leads the Bears in defensive snaps (1,022) and defensive penalties (8), one every 127.8 play.
Across the league in 2019, defensive backs draw an average of 3.88 flags per game, compared to only 1.74 by linebackers, according to nflpenalties.com.
It’s difficult to deduce anything other than that Lynch has been among the more undisciplined players in the NFL. Only three positional peers in football — all full-time players — have more penalties: Pro Bowlers Shaq Barrett (16.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles) and Von Miller (7 sacks) and Seahawks lynchpin Jadeveon Clowney (4 sacks, 4 FF).
Lynch signed a one-year deal to return this season after an underrated debut with the Bears in 2018 that was cut short by injury, including four tackles for loss, three sacks (and three penalties) and an interception in 353 snaps on 'D.' While his penalties have gone way up, his production has fallen (2 sacks and 3 TFLs), seemingly making him a longshot to return for a third season to supplement the contributions of Khalil Mack and possibly Leonard Floyd.
Still, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano told reporters Thursday that correcting Lynch’s serial jumpiness would be an offseason priority.
“He needs some earplugs, I don’t know,” Pagano said with a laugh when first asked about Lynch’s nasty habit. “No, again, he’d be the first one to tell you that he’s going in there, obviously his role is what his role is. It’s not intentional, we know that. He doesn’t want to do that, but he gets out there and most of the time he’s out here — he’ll take some first and second in run situation snaps off the guys — but a lot of times he’s in on third down and he’s there to rush the passer and go get the quarterback on the ground. With that comes the hard count and all this other stuff. It’s something we’ll focus on in the offseason to clean up.”
Pagano added that he and his staff must do a better job with him despite saying Lynch has been given the study tools, like game film and, likely, specific nuggets on varying quarterbacks’ cadence.
It's an example of a coach doing his best to cover for one of his players who has failed to consistently do his job — two consistent themes surrounding the 2019 Bears. And we're certainly not purposely picking on Pagano or Lynch but pointing out that for every Mitch Trubisky and Charles Leno who have taken steps backward, there are a lot of secondary contributors like Lynch and Taylor Gabriel (60.4 percent catch rate, down from 72 percent in 2018) who have done the same in a season when the Bears too often played like they'd already accomplished their goal after the 12-4 surprise in 2018.
Along those lines, are there any Bears performers who actually exceeded the expectations of Pagano in their first season working with the solid defensive coordinator?
"I’m really, really proud of the guys who stepped in for … Danny [Trevathan] played well when he was out there. He played really, really well. Roquan was coming back to being Roquan — started off really fast and then we lose him. Guys like Nick Kwiatkoski, who comes in and just continues to produce and make plays; and KPL [Kevin Pierre-Louis], those guys; the defensive line. I found out that the marquee names that we all know, it was top to bottom in that room. ... I’m proud of everybody in that room. Again, we’re not proud of our record. We’ll never accept where we’re at. It’s not good enough. I’ll go back and look at myself. Everybody will look at themselves and we’ll make the necessary adjustments in the offseason and we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to play better."
Kwiatkoski and Lynch are both impending free agents at positions likely to see some degree of shakeup in the offseason. It seems pretty clear which one has remained "locked in" and deserves strong consideration to be subsequently rewarded.