Was on the roster bubble going into last season due to the fact that he is a prototype 3-tech defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Luckily for Sutton, DC Vic Fangio’s 3-4 is a bit different than most. The left DE position in Fangio’s scheme requires some ability to rush the passer which was Suttons’ primary skill for most of his college career, including his junior year when Sutton racked up 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss as a 3-tech for ASU which earned him the Pac12 Defensive Player of the Years award.
With McDonald and Ratliff already on the roster, the Bears had Sutton put some weight on and attempt to play the 5-tech position. On paper it seemed like a lost cause, but Sutton played very well last preseason before an elbow injury cut his season short. While fans may not have noticed, I’m sure the Bears brass did and putting Sutton back at his more natural position on the left side may be exactly what he needs to get back to his disruptive ways.
Living on ASU’s campus I have seen Sutton play live plenty of times and I’m a fan of both his quick first step and non-stop motor. From the 3-tech position he’s a homeless man’s Aaron Donald, and I think he’ll push both Bullard and Ferguson for the left DE job.
It’s certainly possible that the weight Sutton has gained over the last two seasons may have sapped the quickness that made him such an effective 3-tech DT, but with how well he played last year before his elbow injury I’m not counting Sutton out quite yet. If given a chance to play the 4-tech position, closer to position he had so much success at in college, Sutton could surprise and be an effective pass rusher inside in 2016.
The wildcard. If this guy can just stay healthy for one season, the Bears may have the pass rusher they need from the front three. Actually if Washington were 100% healthy, the Bears could use him at defensive end, outside linebacker, safety…Who knows. The man is an absolute freak athletically, he just hasn’t been able to stay in one piece so far in his NFL career.
At the 2013 combine the 6’5, 285 pound Washington ran a 4.55 40-time, posted a 39″ vertical, a 10’7″ broad jump, and benched 225 pounds 36 times. He’s only 26 still and the sky is the limit if he can play 16 games this season. So far we have only seen flashes of what Washington can do; He’s been a monster on special team coverage units, has looked unblockable in the preseason, and has flashed the ability to be a force off the edge as a pass rusher.
He’s reportedly down to around 270 pounds which makes Washington a candidate for either an OLB or a down linemen, but is probably best off as a 4-tech on the Bears front-three. He’s a long-shot after missing two consecutive years with injury, but there is no d-linemen on the Bears roster with the physical gifts and upside of Washington. Even if Washington doesn’t make an impact on the d-line, he’s one of the best special teams coverage players on the roster which should secure a roster spot.
If things work out as planned for the Bears, Unrein will be a swing d-linemen filling in as needed at whatever spot needs depth. If the Bears have to start Unrein again, then things have gone terribly wrong (again). Wherever Unrein ends up playing it’s nice for the Bears to have a player who has the versatility to play any of the three spots on the Bears d-line.
Unrein isn’t great anywhere, but has the strength to anchor against double-teams, sets a solid edge against the run, and if given enough time by the defensive backfield can put some heat on the QB. He’s a solid veteran who can hold his own at position, but isn’t going to embarrass himself anywhere.
This is a tough choice as I like a certain traits from all of the players fighting for this position. Here is how I think it breaks down:
Starter: Jonathan Bullard
Yes, he’s a rookie, but he was one of the best run stoppers in the SEC last season and I think that will translate to the NFL level. Bullard uses his lighting quick first step to establish position early and lock down his gap responsibility. He’ll be a good run stopper from day one and may have the potential for much more.
Bullard should be one of the Bears best run stoppers as a rookie who eventually develops into a well-rounded DE who could lead the d-line in tackles while contributing 5-6 sacks per season as well. That’s a significant upgrade over the Unrein, Scruggs, Ferguson shit-show the Bears started at DE last season. Bulllard has the explosiveness to be a force as a rookie and team with Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman to give the Bears a young d-line with significant upside.
Next: Roster Battle