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Bears defense expecting to be among the NFL’s best in 2024

The Chicago Bears defense has high expectations heading into the 2024 season. They not only believe they can be but expect to be among the NFL’s top defenses.

Veteran safety Kevin Byard, who signed with the team this offseason, said the expectation in the locker room is this defense will be among the best in the league heading into the 2024 season. The defense’s success will be key considering the Bears have a rookie quarterback in Caleb Williams making his debut this season.

“I mean, we’re expecting to be a top defense,” Byard said last week at OTAs. “Anything less than that is a letdown. And also, just know full well that with having a younger quarterback, especially during the year, we have to get off to a fast start. I would say looking over the horizon or whatever, you never know how early in the season, as far as the offense with a lot of new pieces kind of meshing together, so as a defense we’ve go to make sure that we’re being a top defense.

“As we get later in the year and those guys are rolling, all three phases are rolling together, just being a defense we got to make sure that we’re holding it down our end of the bargain no matter what the score is, what the offense is doing, what anybody’s doing. We’ve got to make sure we’re a top defense. That’s what we expect, and we talk about that every single day, even on a day like we had today, the last couple periods it’s like, ‘Hey, we haven’t done anything. We’re just getting started.’ So that’s our plan, and that’s what we’re going to continue to work for every single day.”

Chicago didn’t completely overhaul the defense, like last offseason. So the high expectations stem from the current group in place (with a few additions, including Byard), which is coming off a strong finish in 2023.

The Bears have one of the best linebacker corps in the league with T.J. Edwards, Tremaine Edmunds and Jack Sanborn, who now have an entire season together under their belt. Chicago also has a potential top secondary with cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon and Tyrique Stevenson along with safeties Jaquan Brisker and Byard. Head coach Matt Eberflus, who took over defensive play calling duties in Week 3 of last season, also proved to be an effective defensive coordinator.

If anything, the defensive line is the one question mark. And it’s a group that features Pro Bowl edge rusher Montez Sweat and some other young players, so there’s belief this unit can make progress in 2024.

If the Bears defense can get off to a strong start and make a statement, they could keep Chicago in contention for a playoff berth and make things easier for their rookie quarterback.

“When you look at the talent that’s on paper, it’s exciting to see,” Byard said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to put it together. What’s on paper doesn’t really matter. We’ve just got to continue to work every single day, make each other better. Obviously as we get closer to training camp, making sure that once we leave here, after minicamp and everything, guys are continuing to work, making sure that we come in so that we can hit the ground running when training camp starts.”

Story originally appeared on Bears Wire