BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Given that the defense has dominated in recent seasons and most of the starters are back, Bob Babich seems to have few decisions to make.
He chose to stay on the sideline rather than watch the preseason opener at Houston from upstairs.
"There were some concerns I had about being downstairs," said Babich, in his fourth year as a Bears assistant. "I think I had those things answered last week, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out this week."
He has few concerns about the defense. And why would he? That unit has dominated in recent years, most of the starters are back, and there are few issues to resolve in training camp.
"It was a lot of fun," said Babich, in his fourth year as a Bears assistant. "I had a lot of fun. The guys were great. The operation went smooth with the other coaches. It was just a lot of fun. It was a great experience for us as a staff."
Babich got promoted from linebackers coach after the Bears did not renew former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera's contract. That the Bears let Rivera go was a surprise, considering they went to the playoffs two years in a row and led the NFL last season with 44 takeaways. Within hours, Rivera, who talked with eight teams about their head-coaching vacancies over two years, the San Diego Chargers hired him as linebackers coach.
Then, Babich got the promotion.
It was one of several moves during an offseason that seemed to start with a roar but calmed down afterward for the Bears.
Chicago traded leading rusher Thomas Jones, clearing the way for Cedric Benson. Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs threatened a prolonged holdout after the team slapped him with the franchise tag. Defensive tackle Tank Johnson served two months in jail on firearms charges, then got released by the team after he was pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving.
But after that tumultuous start, the offseason seems like a productive one.
Briggs accepted the one-year, $7.2 million franchise tender offer just before training camp started. The Bears replaced Johnson with Darwin Walker, who had 26 1/2 sacks over the past five years for Philadelphia, making him the fourth-most productive defensive tackle during that span.
Another change is at right defensive end, where Mark Anderson is now starting over Alex Brown after finishing with 12 sacks as a rookie last season.
Despite all those moves, the defense will not look much different than a year ago. Babich is not overhauling the unit, he's just helping maintain it.
"I think he's doing a great job," Archuleta said. "He's a real motivator."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press