Welcome to the defensive coordinator's office. Here we are at 3-5, a day after a heartbreaking loss to the division-rival Indianapolis Colts. Even though the rest of the AFC is hovering around .500, we are deflated, and looking back at the box score, our defense continues to depress. It's time for some soul-searching and accountability on the part of Jerry Gray's squad. And if I were Jerry Gray (or more realistically, if I were hired as defensive coordinator today after Gray were fired), these are the talks I'd want to give today to each of our defensive starters heading into the Bears game this Sunday...
1. DT - Jurrell Casey: You are the rock of this defense. The A gaps are your throne. You are a hoss, and all of our run defense begins with you. You're big enough to plug the holes and strong and quick enough to mess up pass blocking schemes. You are the #1 DT on this team (and it's not even close) and your role here is to dominate the center and guards. You also have to be a leader and anchor on this line. Also, if it was you complaining earlier this season about coming from the #1 high school in the country and the #2 college team in the country and "now this"… that has to stop. There's no place on this team for that, and you have to be a bigger man than that.
2. DT - Sen'Derrick Marks: You've had flashes of solid play, but haven't done much to make you stand out. It's the reason many of us are clamoring for Karl Klug and Mike Martin to get more playing time. But you're a vet; those guys are still young. We've seen glimpses of your speed in chasing down RBs, FBs, and TEs on short routes, but you've got to be able to shed more blocks on the line of scrimmage to prevent runs from happening. Your leash is short, shorter than any other starter, because of Martin's solid season so far and his unmatchable motor. Step it up, or step aside. Your choice.
3. DE - Kamerion Wimbley: You were brought in for one main reason - to up our pass rush and to sack the QB. You haven't caused a JJ Watt-esque ruckus so far this year, but you also haven't been a Mario Williams either. You've been right in the middle, and have been improving over the past few weeks. As much as I want QB pressures from you, though, you still have to commit to stopping the run. We need your help in that, too. There's not much (read: any) depth behind you, so there's a lot riding on your performance.
4. DE - Derrick Morgan: You're finally healthy (knock on wood). Now it's time to see why we spent that 1st-Round draft pick on you. I'm pleased with your steady improvement in the pass rush game, and I think you've done pretty well against the run so far too. But it can be better. You and Wimbley need to become a Dwight Freeney-Robert Mathis style tandem on this DL, because you two are all we have on the ends. Behind you, there's nothing. You've been good; but as a 1st Round pick, I expect greatness.
5. MLB - Colin McCarthy: This is your defense. You've proven in your short time here that you are one of the best (if not THE best) players on this defense. You always seem to be in the right place at the right time, and are one of our best tacklers. Our whole team tackling is spotty, though, so that's not saying much at this point. You've been gimpy all year with a bum ankle, and we've seen that you have problems covering TEs across the middle. I'm taking you off that duty, and it's going to be your responsibility now to make sure the run is recognized and contained. You're simply not fast enough right now to cover effectively, so I want to use you in a spot you're better suited for at the moment.
6. SLB - Akeem Ayers: Your game has been improving, and you're clearly finding a niche in the pass rush. I like that. But your speed is also useful in pass coverage as well. You've got a year of experience over Brown, so I like mixing you in and out of coverage and pass rush duty. McCarthy isn't in a position right now to be able to cover without help, so I want you to step in when needed. When called upon to rush the passer, I want aggressiveness and I want pressure and sacks. I also need discipline from you. Dumb penalties kill us, so I need you to play with your head on straight. You keep doing this, you'll be a fine staple in this defense for years to come.
7. WLB - Zach Brown: Nice job. As a 2nd Round pick, you've already unseated veteran Will Witherspoon as the weakside LB, which I think is a solid place for you right now. Your speed is incredible, and I want to utilize that to help cover flanking RBs and any TEs that might find their way to your side of the field. Prove to me that you can tackle, because we desperately need the help in stopping the run.
8. CB - Jason McCourty: You have the easiest assignment on the field from now on: Cover the #1 WR. Simple as that. I don't care if he's lined up outside, in the slot, or in the backfield, he is your guy. Gone are the days where we are fluid with coverage, rotating between you, Verner, and Mouton depending on where the #1 lines up. You are now McCourty Island until further notice. That starts this Sunday with Brandon Marshall. On obvious passing downs, we'll give you LB help with Brown or Ayers, or safety help with Griffin, but Marshall will be your responsibility. This is why we paid you. Become the lockdown we all hope you can be.
9. CB - Alterraun Verner: Hopefully, McCourty can do a well enough job that it will force more looks your way, in regards to the #2 WR. To this point in the season, I honestly feel that you've made fewer mistakes than McCourty, but it's probably because he's seen more looks. You've done a fine job, and we all know you've made plays before. Cover the secondary and checkdown WRs, and occasionally we'll use you for corner blitzes as well. You're probably the most intelligent player on the defensive field, so if you can continue to use that strength and combine that with sure tackling, you'll continue to be one of the cornerstones of this defense. And your pay day will come.
10. FS - Michael Griffin: Play back. Way back. When you think you're back far enough, move back a few more steps. I want you running forward every play. You should never find yourself running backward. You are our center fielder, vacuuming up any deep passes thrown your direction. Let no ball behind you, and you'll do just fine. Your run support is appreciated; your tackling style, however, is not. When we talked about playing with reckless abandon, we didn't mean we wanted you to launch yourself like a dreadlocked torpedo at every ball carrier. You can play fearlessly while making textbook tackles. I want you to remind me that you DO indeed know how to wrap up and tackle. Trust me, when you do the fundamentals well, the big plays will still make themselves available to you. Help us in the tackling game, gobble up a few deep balls and fumbles, and I'll be satisfied with your contribution. Also, thanks for the special teams help.
11. SS - Jordan Babineaux: I don't know what's happened over the course of last year to this year, but I just find myself seeing you run around lost or missing tackles on too many plays this year. The good news for you is that our other options aren't any better than you. You've made some key plays when it matters, but I need more consistency. Make up your mind that RBs are not going to beat you, then tackle them with assertiveness. Your contributions on special teams are appreciated, but we miss the "big plays" that gave you the name "Big Play Babs." I feel like if you commit to making yourself better fundamentally on every play, you'll find more opportunities to make the memorable plays that we all love you for.
To all of you: The Bears come to Nashville this weekend. Their OL is suspect, their QB can get easily frustrated, and their run game is tough. Let's man up, earn some time in their backfield, and give our offense some better opportunities to win this game. LWSS.