Yesterday we previewed the offensive side of the final 53-man roster. There weren’t a ton of surprises, but a couple of notables who met their demise. Today, the defense and specialists are under the microscope. Let’s have a look at how the other half of the roster shapes up.
Defensive Ends (5)
Julius Peppers is locked in to anchor the pass rush yet again. His stats haven’t been eye-popping, but just spend a series isolating on him. Besides being held on virtually every play, the attention he draws makes everyone around him better.
Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin were listed as co-starters opposite Peppers. It’s clear that Wootton has the edge. He’s physically stronger and can hold the edge while McClellin is still trying to get stronger and plays more of a speed game as a specialist on rushing downs.
Cornelius Washington’s athleticism jumps off the screen when you watch him play. He’s raw and unproven but the late-round draft choice might not clear waivers if the Bears tried to sneak him onto the practice squad.
It’s a battle between Cheta Ozougwu and Aston Whiteside for that last spot. I give the edge to Cheta Ozougwu.
Defensive Tackles (4)
Despite a concussion early in the first preseason game, Henry Melton will be playing for a contract, so motivation will not be lacking. Stephen Paea has steadily improved and will play Nose Tackle.
Nick Collins has really performed well in the preseason and can play either interior spot. Undrafted rookie Zach Minter has shown enough in the preseason to lock down the 4th DT spot. Since Peppers and Wootton can slide inside on passing downs, they don’t need the extra depth at DT.
The top three spots are easy – Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic and James Anderson are locked in as opening day starters.
Rookie Khaseem Greene will be a solid contributor on special teams and will be groomed to take over for one of the veterans down the road. Blake Costanzo gets the nod as a special teams ace and can back up in the middle. That leaves an interesting predicament.
The Bears brought in DJ Williams to succeed Urlacher, but a training camp injury has kept him sidelined and allowed Bostic to shine. Should the Bears keep a backup veteran linebacker who doesn’t necessarily play special teams? If they keep Williams, who’s on a 1-year contract, what role does he play? It could push JT Thomas, who has excelled on special teams out the door. I think they keep Williams and JT Thomas as a little extra insurance with some inexperienced players learning their way.