The Bear Goggles On Countdown to Kickoff series is now underway for the second season in a row. With 98 days to go until the Bears season kicks off, we will highlight the Bears player that is wearing number 98, defensive lineman, Mitch Unrein.
Unrein has been a rotational piece on the Bears defensive line for most of the past two seasons. In 2015, Unrein was brought in after being cut by the Chargers in week two. A banged up line caused Unrein to start in four games in 2015, and similar issues forced the Bears to start Unrein for nine games last season. Even when he was officially a starter, Unrein was still in a rotation of players.
Unrein averaged about 33 snaps per game, and they were spread out pretty evenly over the 13 games in which he was active for. For a rotational player, Unrein held up well and rated 62nd among defensive lineman by Pro Football Focus. He posted 26 tackles and had a sack in week 13 against the Lions.
While Unrein was not a train wreck on the field, the Bears hope that he is not starting games, or playing over 40 snaps per game for them this season. Unrein is what he is and there is not a very high ceiling to his game. He saw the field on 49.8% of the snaps last season, which should be closer to the 41.6% he saw in 2015, if not lower.
An injury to Eddie Goldman and little depth on the roster forced Unrein into more snaps last year.The Bears signed Jaye Howard this offseason, and hope that progression in the play of Jonathan Bullard as he enters year two and better luck with health will keep Unrein from consistently seeing the field. He will still see defensive snaps, and the value he brings by being able to play in multiple alignments helps, but he is going to be best in a limited role.
Future with the Bears
Unrein is only signed on for the 2017 season. However, with that said they should not feel too confident in the long term depth of their unit without Unrein. Of their current defensive lineman, Unrein, John Jenkins, Jaye Howard, Akiem Hicks, C.J. Wilson, and Kapron Lewis-Moore are all free agents next season. That leaves just Eddie Goldman, Rashaad Coward, Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris as players signed on past 2017.
While they would love to re-sign players such as Hicks and Howard, anything can happen between now and next year and they could either be valued commodities elsewhere or unworthy of an extension by then. As for players tied down. Robertson-Harris and Coward are longshots to make the 2017 roster, let alone stick around past 2017. On top of that Unrein played 140 snaps more than Bullard last season and Goldman missed most of his season with an injury. There are a lot of questions on the Bears defensive line, and the future of the unit will have to be addressed after a pivotal 2017 season.