Through the season, “3 & Out” was a regular feature for me with Comcast Sportsnet Chicago/CSNChicago.com mates Chris Boden, Jen Lada and Kip Lewis, with the occasional David Kaplan talk-back thrown in. (That was only natural, since Kap is all about back-talk.)
So with the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine behind us, and free agency (Mar. 11) and the draft (May 8) ahead of us, this is the time for a “3 & Out” on the short-term Bears outlook:
Can one draft “hit” at No. 14 or even a strong draft overall effectively fix an entire defense in one year?
Yes. But… One player clearly cannot turn an entire defense (or offense for that matter) from bad to good in one season. However, if the Bears’ defense had simply been “bad” in 2013, they were a playoff team. The defense was beyond bad.
But the reasons were more injury than talent, despite the number of experts who point out that they predicted the Bears would be 8-8 last season (as I’ve said before, that means that they foresaw five starters going down with injuries, in which case I want them picking stocks for me).
Given the tilt in free agency and salary cap toward offense, the defense was going to be hard-pressed to remain elite without some hits in the draft, which Shea McClellin, Brandon Hardin, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene weren’t, certainly not yet.
The big issues now are two: Is that one player going to make everyone else on the defense better (a dominating three-technique or edge rusher can)? And is there, in fact, enough of a “core” with Bostic, Greene, McClellin along with Lance Briggs, Tim Jennings, that a Richard Dent (1983), Dan Hampton (1979), Tommie Harris (2004) or Brian Urlacher (2000) can be a “that guy?” Significant pieces were in place when each of those four arrived, Harris with a 14th pick.
Notably here, only Hampton’s Bears made the playoffs with him as a rookie.