Last season, injuries to Tommie Harris, Dusty Dvoracek, and Darwin Walker depleted the middle of the defensive line and left the Bears vulnerable against the run. Upgrading the tackle position was an off-season requirement, one that was solved simply by adding a rookie, transitioning an end, and keeping everybody healthy.
This season, the position looks solid, at least for the moment.
The question then becomes: who will start opposite Tommie Harris when the season kicks off in Indianapolis? Here are the candidates, in order of likelihood:
Adams came to Chicago from the 49ers last off-season and ended up playing well when he was thrust into the starting role due to the rash of injuries that hit the line. Adams is a good fit for Lovie Smith’s scheme in that he’s a big body that takes up two blockers, freeing up Tommie Harris to go one on one and pressure the quarterback. Adams also will keep blockers off Brian Urlacher in the running game.
Last season’s starter only lasted one game before being placed on IR. Dvoracek, drafted in the third round of 2006, missed his rookie year due to injury and has only played in one game. Still, he receives praise from the coaches and Tommie Harris — his former teammate at Oklahoma — alike. He hasn’t been able to practice at training camp because — yep, an injury. If he can come back healthy, he could be a disruptive force up the middle.
Idonije has played primarily on special teams the past few years and has been a solid contributor at that. It’s for this reason that he probably won’t start because they need to keep him healthy and effective, but he’ll definitely be a strong contributor. The Bears felt his pass rush ability would be better used on the inside because he got lost in the shuffle amid the depth of the Bears’ ends.
The rookie slid down many draft boards due to injuries and attitude, but he reminds me an awful lot of Alex Brown. Brown, as you may remember, slid to the fourth round because some questioned his work ethic, something he has since dispelled. Harrison is unlikely to start as a rookie, but he has held his own in training camp and I can definitely see him starting down the line.
Toeaina joined the Bears late last season because of the injury bug endured by the defensive line. He played well enough to warrant a ticket back to the team. He’s a long shot to start and will have to earn his roster spot by continuing to work hard in training camp.