Bears’ Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards in a whole new world

The free-agent linebackers were the leading tacklers on the Bills and Eagles, respectively, last year. But with the Bears, they’re 0-3 and making tackles but little impact on a defense that ranks 31st in points allowed and is tied for 29th in yards alllowed.

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Bears linebackers Tremaine Edmunds (49) and T.J. Edwards (53) tackled Packers tight end Luke Musgrave after a four-yard gain in the season opener at Soldier Field.

Bears linebackers Tremaine Edmunds (49) and T.J. Edwards (53) tackled Packers tight end Luke Musgrave after a four-yard gain in the season opener at Soldier Field.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Just six months ago, signing with the Bears was a personal highlight for Tremaine Edmunds — a $72 million ($50 million guaranteed) reward for four successful years of development and growth as an impact linebacker with the Bills.

And the reward wasn’t just the money but the stature. With the Bills, Edmunds was another good player on a top-flight NFL defense. With the Bears, he was a leader — the rare player who was named a team captain before he had even played a game for them.

It wasn’t just a well-earned payday, but a chance to take his game to another level, be even better than he was with the 13-3 Bills. Even with a top-five contract, he has a chance to outplay the deal.

Edmunds still has the opportunity to do that. He’s only three games into his first season with the Bears. But those three games already have put him in a much different world than he’s used to. The Bears are not only 0-3, but it’s a bad 0-3 with losses to the Packers (38-20), Buccaneers (27-17) and Chiefs (41-10). The Bears’ defense ranks 31st in points allowed, is tied for 29th in yards allowed and is 32nd in sacks (one), with no takeaways except for two interceptions against Chiefs backup Blaine Gabbert in garbage time Sunday.

Edmunds has been caught in the undertow of that slow start. He has 26 tackles with two tackles for loss. But he hasn’t made the high-impact plays that spark a defense or alter the course of a game.

“I disagree with that,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “He’s made a lot of tackles in there, and you felt him. He’s had a lot of nice big hits that I think will generate enthusiasm. And as he does those, he has to do a good job of punching the ball at the same time to create impact plays.”

It’s only three games, but therein lies one problem with the Bears’ plan to upgrade their defense. They paid $72 million to a linebacker who has to be taught to create turnovers. Not exactly plug-and-play.

“We’re working on that,” Eberflus said. “We’re working on lowering his tackling a little bit to make sure he can get to that position where you need to be to create those big plays. And he’s gonna work diligently to get that done.”

Fellow linebacker T.J. Edwards feels similar pain — maybe even more so as a Chicago-area player. He signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with his hometown team after four productive seasons with the Eagles. He was the leading tackler on a 14-3 team that went to the Super Bowl last season.

But, like Edmunds, he already has lost as many games with the Bears as he did in the 2022 regular season. Edwards also has been a solid tackler with the Bears; he leads them with 31. But, like Edmunds, the big-play impact hasn’t been there.

Like Edmunds, he’s facing a harsh reality with the Bears. He’s not in Philadelphia anymore. The heat already is on.

“I understand it,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘I’m [from] here, so I get it. I understand the media and how it all works, so the mindset we have right now is just focusing on next week.

“We can’t really control what people are saying or what the past has looked like. We want to change what’s happening right now. That just takes us coming in every day and coming together. We haven’t really done a very good job of that through all this time, so coming together now, we’ve just got to execute it.”

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