The Problem is One of Discipline
Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times tells us that we shouldn't be surprised that the run defense stinks:
“The term of the moment in the NFL is ‘‘run fits.’’ It refers to defensive players being in proper position to make tackles on running backs in the gaps between offensive linemen. The Bears aren’t good at it, and no amount of teaching is going to make up for the fact they don’t have the athletes to pull it off. And you know what that means: a lack of ‘‘gap integrity.’’ I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
Morrissey makes some good points in this article. But this isn't one of them.
First, I also had never heard the phrase “run fit” until this year. My assumption was that this was a term that new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker brought in with him. I've avoided using it just because I hate to go along with the crowd in an effort to sound like I know what I'm talking about. But I'll probably eventually give in.
Second and most importantly, what disappoints me and so many Bear fans like me about the defense isn't that the Bears “don't have the athletes to pull it off”. If the problem was that the Bears players were just getting blocked out of the play, I could live with that. I wouldn't like it and I might look for fundamental improvements to make the players as individuals better, but I could accept it as reality. You can only coach up a lack of talent so much.
What bothers me is that so many of the break downs are mental. It's not that the guy gets pushed out of his gap. It's that he's not in his gap or that he's managed to lean just enough in the wrong direction that he's basically done the offensive player's job for him.
Add in the penalties and what you are left with isn't just a team that lacks talent. It's a team that isn't playing to the potential that the talent they have provides. This is a much worse crime.
Many if not most of the Bears problems can be coached. And the Beas need these players to start listening and responding to that coaching. Otherwise the guess here is that many of them being in the last year of their contracts, they won't be around very long after the year is over. Nor should they.