(670 The Score) New Bears defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad didn’t find NFL success by accident.
A sixth-round pick of the Saints in 2017, Muhammad was waived after playing just four games in his rookie season. But the Colts and then-defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus saw potential in him. He just needed to believe in what Eberflus was selling.
“I had to figure out the scheme,” Muhammad recalled of his first season with the Colts in 2018. “I had to figure out the message that he was giving. And I had to figure out how to do it on a consistent basis. I had to figure out how to do it every day. I had to change my perspective, change my mindset and I had to really just buy in.”
Muhammad, who turns 27 next Monday, developed into a key player on the Colts’ defensive front during his four seasons with Eberflus in Indianapolis. He started all 17 games last season and recorded a career-best six sacks.
It’s why Eberflus, who's now the head coach of the Bears, coveted Muhammad as a free-agent addition. Muhammad officially signed a two-year deal with the Bears on Sunday and will step into a role that was to be held by star pass rusher Khalil Mack, who was traded to the Chargers recently.
"Quan represents the play style coach Eberflus wants our entire team to have,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said in a statement. “His motor and desire to affect the game stands out."
Muhammad admitted that when he first joined the Colts, he had to figure out the new defensive coordinator Eberflus. He sensed a high-energy coach who believed in building an identity. Muhammad realized he needed to do his part in meeting Eberflus’ expectations.
For Eberflus, the most important trait for his defense is effort. He wants his players flying to the football.
“If you’re not playing at a fast pace, you’re not running to the ball, punching at the ball, stripping at the ball, just 11 guys to the ball, you’re not going to play,” Muhammad said. “I bought into that immediately and I train that way during the offseason. I train that way. Getting to the ball is always on my mind. That’s pretty much what he’s about, just having eight, nine, 10, all 11 guys to the ball.
“That’s a special thing. You got a special defense if you got 11 guys running to the ball.
Eberflus took notice of Muhammad, whose role increased each season in Indianapolis. He played 42% of the defensive snaps in 2018, then 47% in 2019, 56% in 2020 and 73% as a starter last season. Muhammad registered pressures on 12.4% of his pass rushing snaps in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus.
When the Bears completed their trade of Mack to the Chargers, they looked to an available player whom Eberflus knows well. And Muhammad was drawn to keep playing for a coach whom he has grown to appreciate.
“He’s the same guy every day,” Muhammad said. “High-energy guy. He brings the juice. Nobody wants to win more than Eberflus, and I think a lot of people around here are going to see that. We’re all in this business to win. To win a Super Bowl. He’s going to give you his all.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.