I was debating whether I should have even written this blog as the opinions I’m about to give sound like common sense to me.
Than I started to recall a lot of the conversations and debates (to put it nicely in many cases) I had with fellow Bears fans where they defended Vic Fangio as if he were perfect and a hall of fame bound Defensive Coordinator immune to any criticism whatsoever. In fact, most of the time I wasn’t criticizing Fangio at all, but merely stating facts and they were taken as though I was being hard on Fangio. So these points I’m going to make may not be common sense to some of you at all.
Fangio is by nature a coach that leans towards conservative play calling preferring to go with simplicity so his players can play fast without overly complicating things and forcing his players to have to communicate more and think to a higher level. Fangio’s worth, his genius if you will, comes with his ability to gain his players trust and loyalty and thus have them playing hard for him at all times.
He also emphasizes being physical. A message all Defensive Coordinators generally try to convey to their players, but Fangio gets that message across more than most. After all, what good defenses do you remember playing finesse first? That’s right, none. Now some defenses may emphasize speed over power and thus draft, develop and sign free agents who are smaller ala Lovie Smith, but all want to be physical.
As a matter of fact, Fangio is a lot like Lovie Smith philosophy wise. Both preferred to play it straight up with their pass rush and devote more number of bodies to the back end in coverage. Rarely blitzing to scheme pressure.
Now that’s pretty much where the similarities stop. Unlike Lovie, Fangio prefers press man most of the time whereas, Smith rarely pressed and played much more zone and off man coverage. Fangio also plays a base 30 front and employs a twist and stunt scheme with his linemen to free pass rushers often using a green dog blitz (delayed) mainly with his inside linebackers. Smith ran a 40 front rarely stunting preferring disciplined gap control, and had his linemen shoot through those gaps to cause pressure while he had his Inside linebacker drop into a deep middle zone.
Now, Fangio’s scheme is ultra dependent on the play of the Outside Linebacker. Most of the stunting action is designed to get the Outside Linebacker to the Quarterback. Sometimes the adjustment by the Offensive line actually gives the interior three Linemen a path to the Quarterback as well. However, with Leonard Floyd’s injury Fangio may have to scheme up some game plans outside his comfort level in order to apply the proper pass rush necessary to cause enough mayhem to get the defense off the field, and get much needed turnovers.
The uncertainty of the two younger pass rushers in Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving, as well as the veteran in Kasim Edabali fighting for a roster spot and Sam Acho not being a prolific pass rusher along with Aaron Lynch being injured and who may not even make the team, leaves doubt the Outside Linebackers will generate enough pass rush.
I’m not necessarily talking about a massive change in blitz philosophy here. Fangio Doesn’t have to go all Greg Williams and send 3 – 4 guys with cover zero on 40% – 60% of third downs. However, he will need to incorporate other players into the pressure packages.
One idea I like, aside from trading for a pass rusher, is for the Bears defense use some of their Defensive Linemen as Outside linebackers in special packages. For those who may want to shoot down that idea as madness on my part the Bears actually did do that last year. Not a whole bunch but they did have Akiem Hicks outside off the edge in a two point stance as well as in the wide nine look. I would love to see Roy Robertson-Harris on the Edge causing massive damage and giving the offense a little angst as to how they’ll be defending him. He looks poised to make a huge impact as a defensive End this year and leads the Bears in sacks in the pre-season for what it’s worth with 2 1/2.
Another idea I like and has been talked about in the media is the Bears having a nickel package that includes Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith and Nick Kwiatkoski being on the field at the same time with Kwiatkoski playing Outside Linebacker.
Kwiatkoski has shown the ability to rush the passer in his brief career. usually as a blitzer but he has come off the edge before. You can also incorporate the delay blitz in this package as both Trevathan and Smith have shown they can get to the Quarterback and get pressures, hits and sacks.
Another thing I’d like to see more of is the defensive back blitz, particularly from a Cornerback. Especially using Kyle Fuller. Fuller has shown that he is very capable in this role when he played the WHIP position at Virginia Tech which is essentially a hybrid Linebacker position. Fangio has dabbled with this before. last year he created a package with Sharron McManis in that role and it yielded some results. He also uses Bryce Callahan as a blitzer on occasion. I’d just like to see more of it. Send your corners and Safeties more to create confusion and make the Quarterback think a little more as it has an unpredictability factor to it. Maybe that fraction of a second of thought creates the delay of the pass just long enough to create a big play. This is especially doable with the Bears stocked with linebackers who can thrive in coverage.
In closing I’d just like to see more blitzing in general. I’m a man who enjoys watching a gambling aggressive defense that sends guys from anywhere at anytime, but considering the way Fangio likes to play defense I am not expecting that amount of activity. However, it would be nice to go from the bottom of the league in blitz attempts to the middle of the league. Especially when the team is without a stud pass rusher.