One of the most critical positional groups for the upcoming Bears season is the defensive line. Last year, the Bears posted historically low numbers, their statistically worst season in franchise history. The run defense was worst in the NFL, giving up 161.4 yards per game on the ground. They also gave up 29.9 points per game, tied for the second-most in the league. And the Bears recorded just 31 sacks, tied for the fewest among all defenses.
There’s no question the Bears needed to improve their defense and they made strides in the offseason to do just that. Against the Seahawks in the “dress rehearsal” preseason game last week, it didn’t look as if the Bears had made any improvements at all. Then again, the Bears weren’t going full speed whereas the Seahawks looked like they were in regular season mode. Plus, defensive end Jared Allen wasn’t playing.
The Bears currently have a starting line of Allen and Lamarr Houston at the ends, and tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea — who have looked good on the field together — anchoring the middle of the defense. If the Bears want to have any chance at succeeding this year, that unit needs to step it up and stop the run better. Assuming they can start forcing teams into third-and-long situations this year, getting after the passer will be Step 2.
Allen is one of the best pass rushers in NFL history and he’ll have to show he can still do it at his age. Houston has flashed some ability to get after the quarterback as well, but we need to see consistency from him.
The best way to get after opposing quarterbacks is to do it with depth and rotation. That’s where free agent acquisition Willie Young comes in. The former Detroit Lion has a motor and extra speed off the edge.
Aside from these five men, the Bears will need to carry four or five more — again, depending on needs at other positions.
Rookie defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton will make the team by virtue of their draft statuses. That leaves David Bass, Trevor Scott, Austen Lane and Cornelius Washington competing for the last two or three spots on the line.
If Washington had shown enough promise last year as a rookie, he likely would not be in such an intense fight for a roster spot this year. I don’t think he makes the cut.
Scott has had a relentless motor this preseason and has shown good pursuit of the play. I expect him to make the cut, leaving a tough choice between Lane and Bass, unless the Bears decide to carry both of them.