Chicago Bears 2016 Position Preview: Defensive Line

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /


Jarvis Jenkins – Was one of the Bears best d-linemen the first quarter of the season, but Jenkins’ play deteriorated steadily as the season went on. He ended up finishing near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ overall d-line rankings, but was effective early in the season.

Whether his decline was due to an undisclosed injury or a stamina issue, Jenkins just wasn’t the same player in the 2nd half of the year. On a positive note for the Bears, Jenkins didn’t do enough to earn a significant raise so should still be a cost-effective option. The Bears could sign him as depth, knowing he can start in a pinch and could be better with limited snaps as a rotational DE.

Mitch Unrein – Due to injuries elsewhere on the d-line last season, Unrein became a regular in the rotation. He plays with a high motor and is solid against the run. Unrein doesn’t bring anything to the table as a pass rusher, but his consistency against the run has value and he could see a lot of snaps on early downs in 2016.

His contributions as a goal-line fullback shouldn’t be discounted either for a team that has struggled in short-yardage situations the last few years. It won’t cost much to bring Unrein back and he’s a known commodity to John Fox which gives him an edge over some of his less experienced competition for the last couple d-line spots.

Bruce Gaston – Was signed off the Packers practice squad when Ego Ferguson was placed on injured reserve early last season. Gaston got limited snaps, but made the most of the them when on the field. I liked Gaston coming out of Purdue, he has a good burst off the ball and plays with a non-stop motor.

Gaston is also a local who played his high school football at St.Rita (my rival high school) in Burbank, IL. I think Gaston showed enough to be kept around in 2016, but hopefully the Bears upgrade their d-line enough that he is a rotation player instead of a starter as Gaston was late in the season.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Terry Williams – The Swamp Monster was one of my favorite undrafted rookies due to stretches of dominant play in college and the preseason. He has stamina issues that keeps Williams from playing effectively for long stretches, but as Goldman’s backup at nose tackle he could be used in small bursts.

Williams has a low center of gravity and a powerful burst off the ball that can be hard to contain when he’s fresh. Worst case, Williams should be a practice squad player to start the 2016 season.

Cornelius Washington – Showed flashes in the preseason of being a good fit for the Bears new 3-4 scheme. Washington bulked up to (6’4 | 285) to play DE and has always been an elite athlete (4.55 speed, 35 bench reps, 39″ vert), but was very raw at the beginning of his Bears career. In the preseason Washington looked like his strength and technique had finally caught up to his athletic ability.

He did a good job setting the edge against the run which is the main responsibility of DE’s in Fangio’s scheme and also showed the ability to generate pressure on the QB which is gravy from the 5-tech position. Injuries have stalled Washington’s development, but if he can stay healthy and hasn’t lost any of his elite athleticism he could be a force at DE. Even if Washington can’t win the starting DE gig, he has been excellent on special teams and the Bears need all the help they can get on that unit.