Sunday, February 25, 2024

Film Study: What did Bears bring home from free-agent shopping?

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Most NFL fans have some sort of feelings about a wide receiver like DJ Moore.

But what about the guys in the trenches, the defenders? In a special edition of Bears Film Study, we look at the non-skill position free agents who are moving into Halas Hall. These are observations based on game film from last season.

Tremaine Edmunds

Clearly, this is the Bears’ biggest addition on the defensive side. The first thing to know about the former Buffalo Bills linebacker is he has little in common with Roquan Smith. Or Mike Singletary or Dick Butkus. Maybe Brian Urlacher in some regard.

Edmunds is a middle linebacker with speed. Most of his tackles came outside the numbers when he chased down outside runs or short passes. He’s not a guy who stuck his helmet into a running back headed up the middle. He rarely blitzed and didn’t make many stops between the tackles.

Edmunds was an every-down player and spent plenty of time in pass coverage, most often dropping into a zone in the Bills’ scheme. He’s good at it too, seeing very few pass targets because he usually had his man locked up.

Watching Bears film from last season, the best defender they faced was Philadelphia’s Hasson Reddick, a versatile outside linebacker who could rush the passer or play standing up. A couple of others who fit that mold were Green Bay’s Quay Walker and Miami’s Jaelan Phillips.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Considering Edmunds’ speed, will the Bears try to make him more of an attacking linebacker? Could he play outside and be the big-play defender they didn’t have last season? Will he play the Nick Morrow role or stay in the middle? We’ll see.

T.J. Edwards

It’s almost comical how much Edwards and Jack Sanborn have in common. Both are from the northern suburbs, had the same high school coach, played at Wisconsin and went undrafted. The most significant difference is Edwards played quarterback at Lakes High School. Sanborn was a linebacker all the way at Lake Zurich.

So now the Bears have two hard-nosed local heroes to play middle linebacker. Edwards’ role with the Eagles last season was nearly identical to Edmunds. Always in the middle, never came off the field, spent lots of time in pass coverage.

One observation on Edwards: He’s smart and could often be seen playing the cutback on run plays. Bears linebackers have had a tendency to get in each other’s way the past few years.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Edwards made a couple of standout plays in the Super Bowl, chasing down Patrick Mahomes on a scramble and also catching Travis Kelce from behind when the Chiefs tried to use misdirection to get him open on a quick pass.

The Chiefs also schemed to take Edwards out of plays. On Mahomes’ long scramble during the final drive, Edwards followed the running back on a pass pattern and wasn’t in position to make a stop.

DeMarcus Walker

The dream scenario for the Bears in free-agency would have been to find the next version of Akiem Hicks. Maybe that player doesn’t exist, but GM Ryan Poles chose to target value instead of paying up for stars.

Walker played just 37% of defensive snaps for Tennessee last season, so it’s easy to think he wasn’t very productive. But he did come up with 7 sacks, so he was doing something right.

The seventh-year pro played every spot on the defensive line for the Titans, most often lining up as a tackle in a five-man front. It can take a while to find an impact play, but Walker has pretty good speed in the open field. There’s a play last year where he gained ground on a scrambling Russell Wilson.

Walker garnered 2 sacks against the Chargers’ Justin Herbert. On the first, he beat the guard one-on-one and got to the QB quickly. The other time, he fought his way through about three blockers and finally collapsed the pocket when Herbert held the ball too long.

Can he succeed as an edge rusher? Probably not, although he was rarely in that spot last season. Is he better than Justin Jones, the Bears’ best defensive lineman last year? Again, probably not.

Nate Davis

The Bears needed help on the offensive line and landed this former third-round pick, who started 54 games in four seasons with Tennessee. Already, Poles hinted at Cody Whitehair moving back to center to open a spot at guard for Davis.

The description of Davis might be solid. He’s started plenty of games and knows what he’s doing. His weight is concentrated in the lower body, which makes him a good drive-blocker. He may not move well enough to be an effective puller, but the Bears have guys who are good at that.

Dylan Cole

Another former Titan, he’s known as a special teams ace, but also started eight games at linebacker last season. He runs well, but wasn’t especially productive in Tennessee.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

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