The Chicago Bears had the worst defense in franchise history during the 2013 season. Just one year after finishing in the top five in the NFL in yards and points allowed, the Bears were 30th in both categories in 2013, the worst they've finished in either stat throughout the history of a franchise best known for its stout defense.
With those struggles came prompt changes and after free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft, the lineup for the Bears looks much different -- particularly on the defensive line, where marquee free agents were added to replace marquee departures.
Defensive ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston will be tasked with filling the voids left by the departures of Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton. Upping the team's sack total, which was the NFL's worst in 2013 with only 31 sacks, is a must for the team. But those sacks won't necessarily be entirely up to Allen and Houston, although they'll certainly be the ones who are chiefly responsible. A pair of rookie defensive tackles could fight for time in the starting lineup or provide rotational pass-rush help.
Former Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton was one of the nation's leaders in sacks during his junior season with the Sun Devils, and although he struggled to match that production as a senior, his ability as an interior pass rusher is apparent.
Second-round pick Ego Ferguson only recorded one sack during his time with the LSU Tigers, but he could earn a primary role occupying blockers if he can pull a starting spot away from Stephen Paea. If he succeeds in the role, he could help free the other defensive linemen to wreak havoc.
But the focus of the changes in the offseason weren't exclusively on improving the team's pass rush. With the 14th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bears selected cornerback Kyle Fuller, who should immediately start in the team's secondary. Potentially joining Fuller in the starting secondary is fourth-round pick Brock Vereen, although he'll have to beat out Chris Conte for the job.
Regardless, it's a new-look defense that will have a low bar to improve on the performance from 2013. With hopes high for a team that scored the second-most points in the NFL en route to an 8-8 record, it'll be a new-look defense that likely decides the fate of the Bears in 2014.