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Hoge's Bears Things: The defense might not be that far away

Adam Hoge Avatar
December 21, 2022

Bundle up and stay safe with the impending snow. Personally, I think it will be a letdown, as so many early Chicago snowstorms are.

Let’s dive into some football talk:

The Lead: Importance of the 3-technique

We’re going to rapid-fire our way through some Bears thoughts this holiday week, but before we get there, I wanted to share a great explanation from Bears head coach Matt Eberflus on why the 3-technique is such an important position in his defense.

First, just so we’re all on the same page, the 3-tech is the defensive tackle that lines up to the outside shoulder of one of the offensive guards, typically attacking the B-gap. The nose tackle is the other interior defensive lineman, lined up to the opposite shoulder of the center. 

In a 4-3 defense, the 3-technique needs to have quickness/suddenness to penetrate and shoot his gap, but also strength/power to hold the B-gap when the opponent runs to the opposite side. 

“We call it the engine that makes everything go because in the running game, you can’t run at the (3-tech) and you can’t run away from him,” Eberflus said Tuesday. “So it’s hard to really dictate where you’re going to run the ball, and it creates a lot of free lanes for your linebackers to run through in the run game.”

But what about against the pass?

“In the pass game, a lot of times when you have a 3-technique and you have a defensive end opposite of him, it’s hard to move your (offensive) line that way,” Eberflus said. “He creates a lot of one-on-ones, and he’s typically overmatched on a guard. Typically your best offensive linemen are on the outside and if you have your best player on the inside, that’s certainly an advantage for you.”

Think about it this way: If offenses are paying tackles the most money and you have Aaron Donald attacking the interior, you probably have a matchup advantage. This is something Eberflus enjoyed in Indianapolis when he had DeForest Buckner at the 3-tech. 

But behind the 3-technique, the WILL linebacker is the next important piece to the puzzle, and Eberflus prefers to pair the 3-tech and the WILL together. 

“If you do it like we do it — the old school Tampa Bay, Chicago Bears, they would put Lance Briggs, Derrick Brooks behind the three-technique. They would always travel together,” Eberflus said. “That means you’re covered to the hit. It would create a lot of things with that. Last place I was at with DeForest and Shaq (Leonard), he was always covered to the hit. Those two positions are really important to us.”

And what does “covered to the hit” mean? It basically means the WILL is not exposed in open space because he is stacked behind the 3-tech. On the opposite side, the SAM linebacker is exposed to fullback/H-back types in the “bubble” (uncovered gap). 

The simplest way to put this: You’re taking your two most disruptive players in the front-seven and lining them up in a way in which the offense can’t easily account for both of them. And if you can add a dominant defensive end to the opposite side, you’re really putting the offensive line in a bind. 

What’s interesting about the Bears’ current situation is that they probably need upgrades at all three of those key positions. And you can bet it will be an enormous focus of the offseason now that general manager Ryan Poles has a plethora of cap space and draft capital to use.

But you might also want to keep Eberflus’ comments about the 3-technique in mind when it comes to the already raging debate between Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. 

The 3-tech is the “engine that makes everything go.”

Rapid-fire thoughts

— There’s a lot to like about where the Bears’ secondary is headed with Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker joining Eddie Jackson next year. And they’ve managed to do what they’ve done this year without the aforementioned dominant 3-tech, defensive end and WILL (post-Roquan Smith). 

— MIKE linebacker Jack Sanborn’s season is done after an ankle injury, but you can probably use ink to write his name in as a starter next year. At worst, he’s the Bears’ starting SAM.

— When you add all this up, you realize the Bears’ defense might not be that far away from being much, much better in 2023. 

— Good for Fields sticking up for himself against the referees after yet another no-call, this time a clubbing to the head from Eagles’ defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “There’s just been too many times where I’ve slid and been hit too late and I don’t get the flag,” Fields said Tuesday at Halas Hall. 

— These last few games are starting to feel like preseason games, where we look at everything through an individual lens. With that in mind, Saturday’s game in the freezing cold is a good opportunity for Fields. It will undoubtedly be the coldest game he has played in, and that’s something he needs to get used to if he’s planning on playing in January playoff games at Soldier Field. At this point, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has considerably more experience playing in the winter elements (including last week’s snowy fourth quarter against the Dolphins), especially because he played his college ball at Wyoming. Regardless of the results, Saturday’s game will be good for Fields. 

Happy Hour Tonight!

As a Diehard, I hope you’ll join us for Will DeWitt and Nicholas Moreano’s CHGO Diehard Happy Hour tonight at 8:15 pm CT. It’s the second time we’ve done this and is a good excuse to grab a drink and talk Bears football over Zoom with other people who love the team. You can enter the room through this link. See you then!

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