The Bears return nine starters from a defense that ranked ninth in the NFL in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed. With potential upgrades at safety (Brandon Meriweather for Danieal Manning) and defensive tackle (Henry Melton for Tommie Harris), the Bears are thinking they can be even better in 2012.
''We plan on being a top-three defense in this league,'' safety Chris Harris said. ''I think it's great for us to raise the bar the way we do. It's great that guys definitely up to the challenge.''
Asked if there was a particular area of improvement, Harris said, 'I think we can take the ball away more.'' The Bears had 35 takeaways last season -- the most in the last four seasons. But with Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs still going strong, the Bears are hoping to return to the elite level of 2006, when they led the NFL with 44 takeaways (20 fumble recoveries, 24 interceptions) and tied for second in turnover differential (+13).
''I think we're [better] up front,'' Urlacher said. ''Not only on defense, but on offense as well. Our line has played better, and I know preseason doesn't mean much, but we've got to take something out of it. I think they did a better job up front. Our defensive line is stacked. We go two-deep at every spot, and those guys get after it.''