The Bears released veteran defensive tackle Nate Collins in the first wave of cuts this weekend, and while Collins wasn’t exactly a Pro Bowl player, he was a solid veteran with a good motor who had a fair amount of success at creating disruption in the backfield.
The team re-signed veteran Jeremiah Ratliff in the offseason and drafted rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in back-to-back rounds in May’s draft, so Collins’ battle was an uphill one from the outset.
With Collins’ release, the Bears are heavily investing in fourth-year pro Stephen Paea — who’s had a modicum of success so far but needs to elevate his game in his third season as a starter — and the two young rookies. Rookies don’t normally have a huge impact unless they’re highly touted out of college and selected high in the draft, so that puts extra pressure on Ferguson and Sutton.
In order for the Bears to be effective rushing the quarterback, have a much better run defense, and to help out the secondary against the pass, they need to bring the pressure in waves. This means the defensive tackle rotation will be critical in order to keep those bodies fresh throughout the season, and that means the learning curve will speed up for the rookies.
The other option the Bears have — and this may have been their plan all along — is to rotate defensive end Lamarr Houston inside to tackle on clear passing downs and let Willie Young and Jared Allen attack the passer from the outside.
However the Bears decide to distribute playing time, there still remains an onus on the young defensive tackles to improve daily and help solidify the middle of the line.