Bears DC Sean Desai: Chicago defense needs a 'tune-up' in 2021, not an overhaul

Sean Desai has been part of several iterations of the Chicago Bears coaching staff since he was hired by the club back in 2013 as a quality control assistant.

Now it’s Desai in charge of the Bears defense.

The new defensive coordinator takes over for Chuck Pagano, who retired after the 2020 season. The Chicago D limped to the finish last season, allowing 27 or more points in four of its final six regular-season games. Even with some struggles down the stretch, the Bears have the pieces to bounce back and remain one of the top defenses in the NFL this season.

Speaking with reporters Monday, Desai called the task a “tune-up,” not a remake.

“We’ve got a good defense. We’ve got good players,” he said, via Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic. “There was some regression, and we’re going to overcome that.”

The base is in place for the Bears defense. Khalil Mack remains a star despite a down year by his standards. Akiem Hicks is a load upfront. Eddie Goldman is expected to return after opting out. Roquan Smith is a difference-maker in the middle when healthy. Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson anchor the secondary, and corner Jaylon Johnson is coming off an impressive rookie season.

After getting hired during Marc Trestman’s reign in Chicago, Desai was kept on the staff by John Fox and again when Matt Nagy took over in 2018. As such, he was part of some very good defenses, including the 2018 crew coordinated by Vic Fangio.

“Vic has been my biggest mentor in the NFL,” Desai said of his former DC and current Denver Broncos coach.

Since Fangio moved on, the Bears defense hasn’t been bad, but it hasn’t been a top-five D either. Chicago finished first in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA in 2018. In 2019, they finished 10th, and in 2020, eighth.

Desai credited the education he got under Fangio for the influence he plans to bring as the new Bears coordinator.

“The preparation I was able to witness,” he said, per Usayd Koshul of 247Sports. “I had a front-row seat to Vic calling a game. I was able to reflect after each game why something happened.”

It’s been a quick rise for Desai. After being a quality control assistant, he spent just two years on Pagano’s staff as safeties coach.

In hiring Desai, the Bears hope to get back to a version of the D Fangio coordinated back in 2018.

“The 2018 defense was the best in 2018,” Desai noted. “We want to be the best defense in 2021.”

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