Crooked Stump

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A couple of years ago, Chicago’s defense was considered the best in football. The unit finished 2018 first in points allowed and third in yards allowed, while producing a league-high 36 turnovers.

They were so good that former coordinator Vic Fangio landed a new job as the Broncos’ head coach in 2019.

While Chicago made the postseason in 2020 as the NFC’s new No. 7 seed, the Bears’ defense did fall off under coordinator Chuck Pagano. The club finished 14th in points allowed, 11th in yards allowed, and forced just 18 takeaways — ranking in the bottom third of the league.

Pagano has since retired, with former Bears safeties coach Sean Desai receiving a promotion to the position. During a video conference on Monday, Desai noted that Fangio has been his biggest coaching influence, especially because he sat next to Fangio in the coaching booth during games.

But more than that, Desai feels like Chicago’s defense isn’t far from returning to its recent glory days.

“I’m not a big car guy, so my analogies may not be great, but this is like a tune up,” Desai said. “We’re going to refine some things and we’re going to make sure our players are playing to their strengths on a consistent basis. And they’re going to buy into the system, and they why’s and how’s of why we’re doing certain things.

“But we’ve got a good defense. We’ve got really good players here. … I’m with you all in terms of the stats — somebody asked earlier, [about how] there was some regression — and we’re going to overcome that. But we’re going to do it in a positive way and we’re going to do it where the players are going to be able to shine through that defense. I think we’ll build some depth and we’ll continue with our tough, physical mindset of play and we’ll do that over a 16-to-20-week season.”

The Bears have one of the best defensive building blocks in football with Khalil Mack on their side, and he should be a catalyst for improvement. Plus, Desai has the benefit of knowing Chicago’s personnel already, as he’s been with the club since 2013.

And that’s a good thing, too, because realistically the Bears have to place their highest priority this offseason on figuring out their quarterback to become a more consistent offensive team in 2021.