As we count down the final days to the start of Chicago Bears training camp, we’re doing a preview of all of the position groups. We’ll look at our projected starters, key backups, training camp battles as we review the additions and subtractions to the Bears roster over the offseason.
TODAY’S POSITION: DEFENSIVE LINE
Reserve DT’s: Nate Collins, Brandon Dunn*, Ego Ferguson*, Lee Pegues*, Will Sutton*
No other position group on the Chicago Bears has had more turnover than the defensive line. There’s no way to sugar coat it, the group was downright awful last season. Injuries decimated the defensive line and Phil Emery was the first to admit that he didn’t have enough NFL-ready backups to step in and contribute. With that in mind, Emery went about re-building the D-line like he re-built the O-line last season. He gutted the group, with only Stephen Paea, recovering Nate Collins and late-season addition Jeremiah Ratliff brought back. Last season’s franchise player Henry Melton, who suffered a torn ACL early in 2013, was allowed to walk in free agency. Julius Peppers, whose contract number far outweighed his contributions, was released and picked up by the Packers. Corey Wootton also moved within the division, taking his talents to the Vikings.
Emery was decisive and aggressive in re-building the defensive line. When Michael Bennett decided to re-up with the Seahawks, the Bears moved quickly to bring in DE Lamarr Houston from the Raiders as Free Agency kicked off. Houston is tough against the run and could slide inside to play DT in pass rushing downs. Also added early in free agency was Willie Young, another DE whose star is on the rise after a strong season with the Lions, particularly against the run. The cherry on top was the addition of Pro Bowler Jared Allen.
Emery pulled off a coup to snag Allen under the radar late in free agency. If Allen can maintain the form that he’s shown the last couple of seasons, that will be a big boost to the Bears pass rush. Emery doubled down in the draft, adding a pair of DT’s in the second and third rounds. Ego Ferguson is best suited as a run stuffer while Will Sutton could fill in as a 3-technique. These young DT’s should provide a major upgrade over the guys off the couch that filled in when Collins and Melton went out with season-ending injuries.