The Bears have played more 3-4 defenses this season than 4-3’s, meaning that the practice time each week when coaches put the No. 1 offense and defense units against each other has limited benefit some weeks.
Like this week.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be the Bears’ eighth game against 3-4 fronts. But where lines like the Green Bay Packers are anchored by massive three down-linemen, the Eagles play a two-gap scheme with modest-sized (300, 309, 309 pounds) defensive linemen for a 3-4. And they have a different mindset up front.
“They play this 3-4 defense but they move a lot,” said offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer. “Most teams just sit in their gaps and stuff the run that way. This Philadelphia defense is very athletic and even though they’re in this 3-4 defense, they’re moving, they’re stunting, they’re blitzing, they’re pressuring.
“It looks on tape like their whole goal is just get the ball back for the offense. They’re going to try to force turnovers. They’re going to do everything to confuse you. And so everybody has to follow their rules closely in the game and stick with their technique to have success.”
Philadelphia has six players with between three and five sacks, with linebackers Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and DeMeco Ryans the primary source of their pass rush. The Eagles rank a lowly 31st in sack percentage (32 total, vs. Bears’ 26).
But they are sixth in rushing average allowed, just 3.8 yards per carry. Part of the reason is the movement and deception.
“They try to never give you the same look but then give you same looks and do something different, move all around,” said right tackle Jordan Mills.
“Our coaches are always telling us, ‘Don’t trust it.' If you think something is coming, be ready for something else to be coming as well. They’re always bringing somebody, dropping people into coverage. You can’t trust just what you think.”
What to look for: Barwin and Cole are the chief rush threats and have the size (270, 264 pounds) to hold the point against runs at the edges. Barwin will most often be working against Mills and Cole against left tackle Jermon Bushrod. Keeping them away from Jay Cutler and giving the quarterback time to exploit a vulnerable secondary can set the stage for a points explosion against a team that gave up 48 points to Minnesota but allowed an average of only 17.4 in the previous seven games.