Matt Eberflus doesn’t have everything, but he has enough to make Bears’ defense good

The Bears were a major reclamation project when Matt Eberflus stepped in as coach in January — even on the defensive side, which was their supposed strength. The once-mighty defense plunged from being one of the best in recent NFL history to one that struggled to stop anybody and got lit up left and right in the secondary.

But general manager Ryan Poles has given Eberflus a chance at making the defense good. That’s not a long-term goal. It’s possible this season.

Eberflus inherited a core of linebacker Roquan Smith, cornerback Jaylon Johnson and defensive end Robert Quinn. If he can flip Eddie Jackson back to the fearsome, ball-hawking safety he was at his peak, that gives him four stars.

Poles supplied him with two second-round picks in cornerback Kyler Gordon (No. 39 overall) and safety Jaquan Brisker (No. 48). Now it’s on Eberflus to develop them into legitimate NFL starters.

So with four high-potential veterans and two promising prospects, Eberflus’ job is to figure out the rest and make it work. He got hired in large part because he’s a defensive mastermind, so this should be doable for him.

It’ll likely take multiple seasons for the defense to really grow into Eberflus’ design — as Poles said, it’s impossible to fix every problem Ryan Pace left behind in one year — but this season isn’t a freebie. Even as the Bears prioritize 2023 and beyond, Eberflus now has sufficient resources to begin enacting his plan.

He will be held to a standard this season. The Bears don’t have to be overwhelming like they were in 2018, but they need to be respectable.

Eberflus and Poles have some runway as they embark on the rebuild. Everyone knows Pace and coach Matt Nagy steered the Bears into a ditch, and those two still bear some accountability for issues that could linger into this season. Eberflus won’t face the full force of accountability until 2023.

But in the meantime, he must prove he at least knows what he’s doing. If he’s the expert he was billed to be during his impressive run as Colts defensive coordinator, it’s reasonable to insist that he turn Jackson around and get the most out of Gordon and Brisker.

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