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Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk: What area must defense improve?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

I thought the Bears defense played well last season despite suffering a bunch of injuries. But they weren't dominant like they were in 2018. What's the key to reverting to the form they showed in 2018?
Kyle P.
Oak Lawn, Illinois

Well, the easy answer is to generate more takeaways. The Bears led the NFL with 36 takeaways in 2018 when they won the NFC North with a 12-4 record. Last year, that number declined to 19. After scoring 107 points off turnovers in 2018, the Bears mustered only 59 last year, including only 22 over their final 11 games. That's a difference of three points per contest from 2018 to 2019. So the question now becomes: How do the Bears produce more takeaways this year? To me, the answer is to generate a more consistent pass rush, and I'm confident the Bears can accomplish that key objective. They added talented edge rusher Robert Quinn in free agency, get a healthy Akiem Hicks back after he missed 11 games last year and no doubt will benefit from perennial Pro Bowler Khalil Mack entering the season determined to rebound after failing to perform up to his own expectations in 2019.

What are the roster cut dates this season? Are the limits the same as previous years, and how many slots are there on the practice squad?
Richard R.
Charleston, South Carolina

The NFL's only mandatory cutdown date this summer is Saturday at 3 p.m. Chicago time when teams must reduce their rosters to 53. The league is not expanding active rosters this season, but is increasing the size of practice squads to 16 to help deal with a potential COVID outbreak. Another change is that four of those players on the practice squad can be protected from other teams signing them. And it's my understanding that those four players can change on a weekly basis. Practice squads can be formed on Sunday.

If Eddy Piñeiro isn't ready to kick in the season opener, how confident are the Bears in relying on Cairo Santos?
Jon G.
Aurora, Illinois

The Bears are very confident in Cairo Santos and were planning to keep two kickers around this season even before Eddy Piñeiro hurt his groin. Coach Matt Nagy mentioned that Santos made some big kicks when the two were together with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2014-17, and I'm sure Nagy was very pleased to see Santos make all of the kicks he attempted in last Saturday's scrimmage at Soldier Field. Santos has converted 80.6 percent of his field-goal attempts (108 of 134) in six NFL seasons.

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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