2014 3rd-round pick Will Sutton was on the roster bubble after the switch to a 3-4 scheme, but was one of the best Bears d-linemen in the preseason. Unfortunately Sutton suffered through a series of minor injuries that hampered his production throughout the year. A healthy Sutton has a chance to contribute this year, but he’ll have to play well to make the team.
Veteran Mitch Unrein is a John Fox favorite and is the de facto starter if all of the talented youngsters fail to live up to their potential. Unrein is a warrior and will give his all on every snap, being a competent run-defender but offering absolutely zero against the pass. Ideally he is a rotational player who gets 15-20 snaps a game and not a starter, but Unrein is a good safety-valve to have on the roster.
It seems like Cornelius Washington has been on the roster forever but the former 6th round pick in 2013 is only 26 and he has looked like a beast for two preseasons in a row. Unfortunately he keeps getting hurt and missed all of last season with a chest injury.
Washington has ideal size (6’5, 285) and athleticism (4.55 40-time, 39″ vertical, 26 bench reps of 225 pounds, and 10’6″ broad jump) to be a force off the edge in Vic Fangio’s scheme as either a DE or even a stand-up OLB on obvious passing downs.
Even if Washington doesn’t earn a significant role on the defensive line, he has already proven he can use his elite athleticism to be a force on special teams coverage units which should earn him a spot on the final 53-man roster.
There is also the chance that the Bears will add a salary cap casualty at some point during training camp or add a current veteran free agent like Randy Starks or Henry Melton if none of the young DEs are ready to play significant snaps.
The third DE spot will most likely come down to Jonathan Bullard, Ego Ferguson, Cornelius Washington, and Will Sutton which is a good problem for the Bears to have as they all have the talent to be productive NFL defensive ends and hopefully one of them should reach it in 2016.
If I had to put money down on the player I thought had the best chance to win the job, the best odds are on the rookie Bullard, but if you are looking for a long-shot bet Cornelius Washington has as much talent as anyone on the roster and could be something special if he can just stay healthy.
Let me know how you think is going to win in the 3rd starting job on the d-line in the comments or on Twitter.