The Chicago Bears have, quite publicly, acknowledged that they need to fix things on defense. In fact, the team’s two defensive leaders – Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs - claim to be really upset about how their unit has played. Well, apparently the coaching staff has decided to make a change.
Chicago has made the move to bench not one, but both of their starting safeties. Veterans Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather have been shown to the sidelines as the team will start Major Wright at strong safety and rookie Chris Conte at free safety on Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears have been giving up big plays all season and this past Monday night against the Detroit Lions was no different. Calvin Johnson broke free for a 73-yard touchdown and Jahvid Best gashed them for an 88-yard score in Detroit’s 24-13 win. When you consider that head coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa Two defense is designed to stop big plays, you have to be puzzled by how that has happened.
Harris played against the Lions after missing the previous three games with a pulled hamstring, and before the game the Bears had mentioned how much they missed him during his absence. But after just one game back he has been relegated to the bench because he was undisciplined in his assignments.
Meriweather was cut by the New England Patriots after he routinely blew his assignments and tried to freelance far too often. The Bears immediately picked him up and signed the two-time Pro Bowler to a $3.25 million contract. Now Chicago has seen exactly why Meriweather was a free agent to begin with.
The Bears have been a defense-first team for the better part of a decade, yet this season they rank 29th in the NFL in total offense surrendered, allowing 419.6 yards per game. They are also giving up 24.4 points per game.
I’m not sure if making the equivalent of a line change at safety is going to fix things for the Bears defensively, but I guess it’s a start. Don’t be surprised if more modifications follow this one.