Since the Bears have 17 players listed at either defensive end, defensive tackle, or defensive line, I thought it a good idea to split my Position Battles series in two. Today I'll focus on the defensive ends and tomorrow (click here for the DT post) I'll get to the defensive tackles. The Bears have eight DEs listed on the current roster and of the two guys listed at DL, one of them, Israel Idonije, is primarily an end.
Izzy will be kicking inside to DT on occasion to make room for number one draft pick Shea McClellin, and that package debuted to solid results last Saturday against the Redskins. Idonije is still listed at 275 on the Bears website, but reports had him slimming down to 262. He may not have DT bulk, but he does have DT experience. The newly svelte DE was credited with 2.5 sacks in the Redskin game, and he looked energetic during his time on the field. Even with the new DT reps he'll receive, Izzy still should see his overall snaps reduced and I'm excited to see him play a little fresher this season. A career high in sacks for him is not out of the question.
Both Idonije and the rookie McClellin, will join perennial Pro Bowler Julius Peppers on the final 53 man roster. But after these three it could get interesting.
Corey Wootton has had a strong camp, but he was hurt again playing special teams on Saturday. His time on the sideline could do wonders for one of the other ends looking to make an impression. Chauncey Davis and Thaddeus Gibson both spent time on the 2011roster, and both could stick around this year. With McClellin a definite lock, look for at least one of these to be cut. I don't think they'll keep six DEs on the roster, especially with starting 3-Tech DT Henry Melton having DE experience.
The other ends in camp are fighting the numbers game and will try and show enough for another team to take a flier on them once the Bears decide their fate. Expect the Bears to also tab a DE or two for the practice squad. Cheta Ozougwu picked up a sack in the preseason opener and has looked active in the two games so far. Derek Walker and Aston Whiteside don't even have jersey numbers listed on the Bears site, so read into that what you will.
With the pass rush being such a high priority for Lovie Smith, expect them to look outside the organization for potential practice squad edge rushers once cuts are made around the league.