Members of the Chicago Bear defense including (L-R) Julius Peppers #90, Lance Briggs #55, Marcus Harrison #99, Matt Toeaina #75 and Israel Idonije #71 await the start of play against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on November 14, 2010 in Chicago.
Last year's Bears defense was second best in the National Football League, according to the Aikman Ratings.
This year’s Bears think they can be even better.
"Oh man, not could be, we are going to be really good," Defensive End Israel Idonije said confidently. "We're going to have a great front, and we're going to get after the quarterback and really do some damage stopping the run. There's no question about that. We're better."
Fellow Defensive End Julius Peppers agrees. His second year in Rod Marinelli's system not only means he's more comfortable, but he sees the talent lining up next to him.
"The sky's the limit for this group because we have so much depth and so many guys that can play," Peppers noted.
Marinelli's system is based on speed and athleticism. But he doesn't want the Chicago Bears to be a gimmick defense, but rather one that builds a solid foundation based on fundamentals and then unleash a load of talent.
"If you build a house of straw, you're doing too much," explained Marinelli. "We want to build a really good foundation of fundamentals, bone-on-bone football, how we tackle, how we force, how we break on the ball."
And with Corey Wootton out six to eight weeks after knee surgery, others are getting noticed by Marinelli and the coaching staff. From rookie Stephen Paea and newcomer Amobi Okoye on the inside, to free agent reclamation project Vernon Gholston and undrafted rookie Mario Addison on the outside.
Marinelli said it's a numbers game.
"Usually only suit up seven, the other three guys who aren't the starters have to have position flexibility, so they have to learn more than one spot.... You want to give every man the opportunity to go out and earn a job, doing what they do best," said Peppers.
And if so: "I think we can be great," he said.
The Aikman Efficiency Ratings rank teams on seven categories: rushing, passing, third down efficiency, first downs, points, red zone efficiency and turnovers.