Stripping the defense of captains, leaders and playmakers left questions in the Bears' locker room.
"Your thoughts start to go through your head like, 'What are we playing for?'" safety Eddie Jackson said Wednesday. "Is their vision (in the front office) still the same as the players? We're trying to make it to a Super Bowl, get to the playoffs, things like that. Like I said, I'm not upstairs. I get it. I understand it. But it just hits different."
The Bears acquired Chase Claypool to aid the offense, but removing two critical pieces from the defense guts a Chicago D that, outside of Week 9's loss to Dallas, had played well for most of the season. The Bears defense has allowed 188.0 pass YPG in 2022 (fifth-fewest in NFL), 7 pass TDs (T-third-fewest in NFL) and an 80.3 passer rating (eighth-lowest).
"Especially to the young guys, they're looking at us like, 'Yo, is this normal? (Does) this happen?'" said Jackson, who was named a defensive captain after Quinn and Smith's trades. "But this is the type of stuff that goes on. So we just got to rally around each other, and the older guys got to step up."
The deadline deals by general manager Ryan Poles acknowledged the offense needed aid, and getting assets for defensive players who weren't likely part of the long-term plans made sense.
With a defensive-minded head coach in Matt Eberflus, the Bears will lean on scheme to account for the losses of Smith and Quinn.
"It's just transparency," Eberflus said Wednesday of the trades. "I think that's important. You just communicate. Look each other in the eye and tell the truth and communicate. I think that's what we do with all the guys. I think they appreciate that. It's right there on the table. Just set it up there and talk about it."