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Chalk Talk

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Chalk Talk: Will Bears switch to 4-3 defense?

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've heard that the Bears are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Can you please confirm that, and how much of an adjustment do you anticipate that will be?
Edward W.
Schaumburg, Illinois

Yes, the Bears will transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense under new coach Matt Eberflus. It's the same system that the Colts have played the past four seasons with Eberflus as their defensive coordinator. I don't think it will require much of an adjustment. Teams that run 3-4 schemes generally play with four down linemen in nickel situations, subbing in a fifth defensive back in place of a linebacker. And in the pass-happy modern day NFL, most teams keep their nickel defense on the field at least half the game. That's been the case with the Bears since 2015 when John Fox was hired as coach. So, even though Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn were listed as outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense, they were still rushing the passer from a defensive end position in the nickel. As a result, I don't think they'll have to make much of an adjustment. One difference with the base defense is that with the Bears running a 4-3, you probably won't see Mack and Quinn and other pass rushers drop into coverage like they did on occasion in the 3-4. To me, that's a positive—and an example of what Eberflus and new general manager Ryan Poles have said about putting players in the best position to succeed. During his introductory press conference Monday, Eberflus confirmed that the Bears will switch to a 4-3 but will tailor the defense to the strengths of the players, saying: "Will we have elements and pieces of a 3-4? Sure, we'll have that. We're going to adjust and move and be flexible. We're going to look at the talent and the skill level of the players we have and we're going to coach and develop those guys, and we'll fit our scheme around those players."

Will new Bears coach Matt Eberflus call defensive plays?
Will G.
Mexico City, Mexico

During his introductory press conference Monday, Matt Eberflus revealed that he does not plan to call defensive plays. He will focus instead on leading the entire team, providing an overview of all three phases. Here's how he explained it to reporters: "I do believe that to be the head football coach and be efficient at that, you are exactly the head football coach, so I can be involved in all aspects of the game. The defensive coordinator we hire will call the defensive plays. I will not do that."

What role do you expect analytics to play in new general manager Ryan Poles' decision-making process?
Pete F.
Terre Haute, Indiana

Listening to Ryan Poles during Monday's introductory press conference, it sounded like analytics will play a major role with the Bears moving forward. Here's what Poles said about analytics: "Definitely, it's a part of our process. It's challenging what our eyes see, and I think that's a beautiful thing about all the data we have now is we can challenge what we see and then make the proper decision based off of that. I've always used the analogy: 'I know how to get home, but I plug into Waze anyways, because it might tell me that there's an accident two miles up the road and I can go a different direction and I can still get home in a faster time.' Why would I not use that information? I believe in it and I'm excited to get started."

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

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