Last year Corey Wootton emerged as a starter, taking over for the now departed Israel Idonije at left defensive end. He played in all 16 games for the first time in his three year career, starting the last seven games. He had seven sacks, a couple forced fumbles, and 27 total tackles. Not bad. But the Chicago Bears will need more from the 3rd year pro.
Our own Steve Ronkowski already took a look at some of Wooton's play from last year in this article, Bears Playbook - How Replaceable is Israel Idonije?
With Izzy gone, and the LDE job seemingly all his, he'll have to show that he can play a consistent 16 game schedule. Last year his play did warrant becoming a starter, but four of his sacks and both his forced fumbles came in the first eight games. Pro Football Focus had him graded overall as a -1.4, good for 26th among DEs that took more than half of their teams reps.
You may look at that grade and think disappointment, but some of the drop off may have occurred when his playing time increased. It's possible his body wasn't ready for the additional reps. The PFF grades would make it seem like that was the case.
In the nine games he was operating as the 3rd DE, he averaged 28.8 defensive snaps per game, and he had a grade of +6.6.
In the seven games he started, he averaged 46.1 snaps per game, and his grade was -8.0.
Part of the reason for his increased reps was that he was obviously the starter, but it was also due to Izzy having to play defensive tackle in the second half of 2012. As long as Shea McClellin makes the year two jump that he is expected to make, Wootton will be able to stay fresher all season. A solid rotation will help the other DE as well, Julius Peppers.
In 2013 Wootton must take advantage of playing with a couple Pro Bowl defensive linemen, and he needs to improve his play against the run.