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Defensive system allows young players to excel

Larry Mayer

The Bears have fired several established veterans on defense this offseason, including Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan. But just because they depend on more inexperienced players this year doesn’t mean the unit won’t thrive.

As the Colts ’defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, the Bears’ new coach Matt Eberflus has successfully hooked up with untested prospects in the same 4-3 scheme he’s setting up in Chicago.

Inheriting a Colts defense that ranked 30th in the NFL in both points and yards allowed in 2017, Eberflus led a resurgent drive in 2018 that finished tenth in points and 11 in yards. The defense helped Indianapolis improve from 4-12 in 2017 to 10-6 and a wildcard spot in 2018.

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The 2018 Colts defense was led by three 23-year-olds: rookie linebacker Darius Leonard and two sophomore linebacker Anthony Walker and cornerback Kenny Moore. Leonard was selected in the second round, Walker was an option in the fifth round, and Moore signed with Indianapolis as an unselected free agent.

Leonard was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro of the first team after leading the league with 163 tackles and 111 tackles alone while compiling 7.0 catches and 12.0 tackles per loss. Walker recorded 105 innings and 10 innings per loss. And Moore produced 77 tackles, three interceptions and 11 pass breaks.

The trio continued to stand out after the 2018 season. Other untested players who produced under Eberflus in Indianapolis included cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and linebacker Bobby Okereke.

Speaking to reporters during the Bears’ mini-camp on Wednesday, Eberflus said the defensive system is the main reason young players may have had an immediate impact.

“If you look back at our system, we play with new players fast, and they played really well,” Eberflus said. “That’s what the system does. It’s a system that we rely on techniques and fundamentals and the coach / player relationship, and that’s important to us. It’s a partnership, and we were able to do it.”

Some of the new defensive players the Bears are counting on to step up this season include third-year Trevis Gipson and three draft rookies: second-round cornerback Kyler Gordon, second-round safety Jaquan Brisker and fifth-round defensive back Dominique Robinson. .

“It ‘s exciting to see a young boy [contribute]said Eberflus. “We’re not afraid to put guys in there and let them go, let them play. So we’re looking forward to our guys, like Brisker or Gordon or guys like that, coming in and playing. “

With Mack transferred to the Chargers and Robert Quinn out of this week’s mandatory mini-camp, Gipson and Robinson are gaining valuable experience in practice.

“I am just excited [Gipson] and Dominique too, “Eberflus said.” Both guys are having great reps right now, and it’s exciting to see them. Both will be good pass runners and will continue to grow. We’re excited about those two guys. With opportunities, you have to go one step further. We’ll see what happens on the training ground. We are excited about where they are now, but there is still a long way to go. “

No Bears player has made more progress in 2021 than Gipson, a healthy scratch in week 2 that has become a top game creator. Tulsa’s 2020 fifth-round pick appeared in 16 games with nine outings, recording 39 innings, 7.0 catches, seven innings per loss and five forced loose balls. Gipson has produced especially in the stretch, recording four of his seven catches in the last five games and three of his five forced loose balls in the last two contests.

After playing as an outside linebacker in his first two NFL seasons, Gipson benefited from the Bears switching to a 4-3 defense that is similar to the one he played in Tulsa.

“I think it honestly helped me,” Gipson said. “He’s making me a good player overall. I get out of a three point [stance] and get over the ball faster. “

Robinson arrived in Miami, Ohio as a quarterback, switched to rookie in 2017 and was transferred to the defensive line as a senior in 2020. Last season he collected 28 innings, 6.5 innings per loss and 2.5 catches while playing . 12 games.

During low-season training, Robinson showed the athleticism and fast-paced traits that intrigued the Bears in the draft.

“He’s very athletic,” Gipson said. “The guy is thin, he can move, very versatile. He can rush the pin with speed and rush the pin with power, and I think that makes him a great player.

“He’s a game student, he gets to work, he’s never late, he always has his playbook in his hand, he’s eager to learn. It reminds me of me, honestly. day and keep looking to improve where you can. “

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