When he took over, Ryan Poles vowed he would build the Chicago Bears into a contender. It would start with seizing control of the NFC North and then focus on making the playoffs every year. Most people know what this requires. It’s all about the quarterbacks. Either you have one or you don’t. That is technically true. Great quarterbacks almost always end up in the playoffs. However, this year’s final four teams in the postseason also illustrated another point. Controlling the line of scrimmage is vital.
Pressure % allowed on offense:
- 49ers (2nd)
- Bengals (3rd)
- Eagles (8th)
- Chiefs (16th)
Pressure % applied on defense:
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- Eagles (2nd)
- Chiefs (5th)
- 49ers (11th)
- Bengals (13th)
Protecting the quarterback and pressuring the quarterback. Everybody says stopping the run is the priority, but the truth of it has lessened in recent years. Now it’s all about how well the offensive and defensive lines do their jobs. To get far in the playoffs, you must be proficient in at least one category and passable in the other. Each of the remaining four teams checked that box. The Bears do not. They were 28th in pressure percentage allowed and 31st in pressure percentage applied.
The critical part is Poles knows this.
He made it clear what his focus remains on after the regular season ended. It’s all about the premium positions.
“It’s hard to identify that right now but I always go back to the premium positions. We’re always going to look at pass rushers, we’re going to look at offensive linemen, corners.
So that’s where we’re always going to start and see can we play winning football with premium positions and then we move from there.”
Ryan Poles gets it. That alone is vital for the Bears.
The problem with Ryan Pace is he always seemed too ignorant of this reality. His top picks in every draft he ran were a wide receiver, edge rusher, quarterback, off-the-ball linebacker, tight end, and quarterback. No offensive linemen and two positions (LB and TE) that most would consider non-premium. Poles’ first pick, Kyler Gordon, is a cornerback. That is a premium position. So he held to his original statement. The trend should continue in the 1st round of the upcoming draft. Edge rusher, defensive tackle, and offensive tackle have solid options at the top of the class. Pole should be able to get one of any of them he likes.
This doesn’t include free agency where additional options exist. With some good luck, Ryan Poles can further his plan to strengthen the Bears in the trenches. It’s not like this blueprint is unfamiliar. The last time this team won a championship, they were dominant on both sides of the line of scrimmage. It was also true (to a lesser extent) in 2006. This team’s greatest successes came when they had capable line play. Poles intends to get back there. The current playoff landscape reinforces his vision.