The Chicago Bears knew going into 2023 that they had to shore up their defensive line. It was the biggest weakness on defense last year. Not only did it only manage 10.5 sacks, but it was also pitifully weak against the run. The first step in the overhaul began with signing DeMarcus Walker, a versatile player from Tennessee fresh off seven sacks last season. He can play inside and outside. Now the Bears have struck again, this time adding big Andrew Billings on a one-year deal. He should be an instant upgrade to their porous run defense.
Billings had his best season as a run defender in 2022 for the Las Vegas Raiders. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 72.3 and he had 22 stops for no gain or a loss. He’s a particular nuisance for blockers because of his natural leverage and his considerable power. Moving him off his spot takes more than one man to accomplish. That is likely a big reason the Bears wanted him. He should help keep new linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards clean to make tackles on ball carriers.
The Chicago Bears revamp of the defensive line is on the right track.
They haven’t found a genuine star yet, but they’re adding quality pieces. Walker should be able to help their interior pass rush and isn’t a bad run defender himself. Billings will clog lanes all day. By stuffing the run, it will enable this team to get after the quarterback in more advantageous situations. Next on the agenda is finding pass rushers. Maybe GM Ryan Poles seeks to find some help in free agency, but signs point to him focusing on the NFL draft. It’s a deep edge rusher class.
If nothing else, this proves the Chicago Bears know how to find value on the market without having to chase the bigger names. Walker and Billings cost them barely $10 million for this season. Javon Hargrave, by himself, will cost the San Francisco 49ers $20 million. Find value in free agency and star power in the draft. That is what Poles aims for. It’s hard to argue with such a strategy.
I watched my first Bears games in the early ’70s, and saw an aging Butkis play a little. Even then, he was a terror when he was on the field, bad knee and all. But I never saw him play at Wrigley, that was just before my time. I also saw Singletary for most of his career. Very different player, but also very effective.
Finally, a comment from Lambert that has some insight:
“Find value in free agency and star power in the draft”
No it isn’t hard to argue with such a strategy…nice job Erik.
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How many of you saw Butkus play? Or how many of you saw Butkus play at Wrigley before Soldier Field?
When Dick Butkus was inducted into the hall of fame, he chose former Bears DT Ed O’Bradovich to introduce him. His argument was simple – Ed took up two blockers so that I (Butkus) was free to make plays.
Not saying that Billings is going to fit that role to a T, but stopping the run is kind of important, and anytime one of yours takes up two of theirs, that’s a win.