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The Bears gave us one fantasy-relevant defender in 2021. Roquan Smith was top-five across all positions in nearly every format. Chicago’s next highest-ranked defender was Robert Quinn, who finished 39th among linebackers and 97th overall. Beyond that, there is no point in talking about last year’s Chicago defense.
With the hiring of former Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as head coach and their defensive backs coach Allan Williams as defensive coordinator, we will get more insight by looking at what the Colts did last year. One thing that will tell us for certain is we are going to see more Bears in the top 100 and probably two or three in the top 50 in 2022
There is no DeForest Buckner on the Bears roster but at least for now, Williams has something to work with in Chicago that was absent from Indianapolis in recent years, an outstanding edge defender. Khalil Mack is gone, but Chicago still has Robert Quinn. There is, however, speculation that Quinn could be in a different uniform by the time week one gets here. He did not endear himself to the new coaching staff by skipping mandatory mini-camp, drawing the ire of the head coach, and it is said that at age 32, Quinn is not excited about being the veteran presence on a rebuilding team. It is unlikely the Bears would release him but those factors and a big cap number could lead to a trade. Providing Quinn does not end up on another 3-4 team, he should be an IDP factor again in 2022.
Quinn’s eleven-year career is filled with ups and downs. From 2012 to 2014, he totaled 40 sacks and 15 turnovers becoming an IDP beast. He even racked up 50 solo tackles in 2013 when he was the fantasy game’s top lineman. In 2015 and 2016, Quinn battled injuries, missing half of each season. From 2017 to 2020, he suited up for four different teams. In 2017, his final year with the Rams, Quinn managed decent numbers at 21-11-7.5 while still working his way back to 100% health. He spent 2018 on a one-year contract with Miami, again putting up respectable numbers at 25-12-6.5. but he was never fully comfortable there. Another one-year deal with Dallas in 2019, saw Quinn get back on the right track with 11.5 sacks in 14 games despite playing with a surgically repaired broken hand early in the season and broken ribs later in the year. A foot injury derailed his first season with the Bears in 2020, leading to career-low numbers but Quinn bounced back last year going 38-11-17.5 while forcing five fumbles. That production would have made him top-twelve among defensive linemen.
In Chicago, Quinn would be a defensive end. For anyone that might be concerned about the scheme change, this is a guy that has bounced back and forth between 3-4 and 4-3 more than any other active player in the league and has put up good numbers in both. The best numbers of his career came as a 4-3 end with the Rams in 2013. If he stays, the Bears’ new aggressive, one-gap scheme will be a great fit for Quinn’s skill set. The only way his IDP value could be any better is if he were traded to another 4-3 team with a better supporting cast.
The supporting cast could be an issue in Chicago but may not be as bad as it seems at a glance. Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad followed the coaches from Indianapolis where he was a starter last year. He is not going to make the Pro Bowl or challenge for a sack title, but Muhammad is a dependable veteran contributor that knows the defense. He finished 32-15-6 with a forced fumble last year which is about my expectation for him in 2022.
There is another player of interest here, particularly if Quinn moves on. Trevis Gipson was a fifth-round pick by the previous regime in 2020. While he was drafted to play outside linebacker in the 3-4, Gipson put his hand in the dirt at Tulsa where he had 95 combined tackles and 12 sacks as a two-year starter. He was not on the field much as a rookie but turned some heads in his second season going 23-16-7 with 5 forced fumbles and a recovery on less than 500 snaps. If Quinn is still a Bear, Gipson should be the third man at end, possibly spelling Muhammad on passing downs. If Quinn is gone, Gipson likely becomes a three-down starter. Slide him onto your draft board as a late-round sleeper that no one is paying attention to.
With Quinn staying away and Muhammad recovering from an injury, a pair of rookies have been showing well this summer. Fifth-round pick Dominique Robinson and undrafted free-agent Carson Taylor worked with Gipson as first-team defensive ends during mini-camp. Of course, the coaching staff is talking them up because that’s what coaches do this time of year. There is probably nothing to see here but it may be worth keeping an eye on.
There do not appear to be any IDP standouts among Chicago’s interior linemen but they should be in good shape on the field. Khyiris Tonga projects as the starting one-technique or nose tackle with Justin Jones in line for the three-technique role played by Buckner in Indianapolis. Angelo Blackson and Mike Pennel are veterans with starting experience that could also be factors in the rotation. Jones was 21-16-3 with a couple of turnovers for the Chargers last year. If anyone is going to emerge as an IDP option, he would be the guy. At such a thin position, he might even be worthy of a roster spot in leagues starting two tackles.
- DE Robert Quinn – Target as a DL2 as long as he stays in a 4-3 scheme
- DE Al-Quadin Muhammad – Depth with limited upside
- DE Trevis Gipson – Sleeper with DL2 upside
- DE Dominique Robinson – deep/dynasty sleeper
- DE Carson Taylor – Keep an eye on the situation
- DE/DT Mario Edwards Jr – No impact
- DT Justin Jones – Possible DT2
- DT Angelo Blackson – No impact
- DT Khyiris Tonga – No impact
- DT Mike Pennel – No impact
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