On Friday, the defensive end position was explored and the results were that the vast majority of fans are highly confident in the ends (69%), but what about the interior?
Most of the guys are returning, but gone are Amobi Okoye, Matt Toeaina and the part time DT Israel Idonije.
They have brought in Sedrick Ellis to fill in at the back of the rotation. So without further ado let's get down business:
Starting defensive tackle #1: Henry Melton (5th NFL season)
Job Responsibilities: Get pressure up the middle, collapse the pocket and get sacks. Draw doubles and beat them. Defend the run too and make stops.
Job So Far: Great. After spending his rookie year on IR and coming back as developmental player who had not played a ton of defensive line he has developed into one the brightest young defensive players on the Bears. He burst onto the scene with seven sacks in 2011 and backed that up with six sacks last year and was voted to his first Pro-Bowl.
Confidence Level: High. He has been a great player in both the pass and run game. In addition to his six sacks he added 31 solo tackles. He was franchised this offseason and signed his tender, assuring that there will be no ugly holdout come training camp. Melton will be motivated to earn a long-term extension that makes him paid like the elite player he believes he is.
Starting defensive tackle #2: Stephen Paea (3rd season)
Job Responsibilities: Rush the passer by preying on the weakside guard and the center. Stuff the run and bring down opposing quarterbacks. Take advantage of the single-coverage that Melton and Peppers should bring him.
Job So Far: So-so. In his first two seasons Paea has played well but has not been a the force some thought he could be when Jerry Angelo selected him in the second round. He hasn't become a consistent pass rusher (only 4.5 career sacks, 2.5 last year) nor a dominant run-stopper, only notching 13 solo tackles in 14 starts last year.
Confidence Level: Low. Unfortunately Paea has not shown more than a couple of flashes that he could be a dominant player for the Bears. Hopefully he will grow into the starting role that he got last year and flourish next to Melton.
Back up defensive tackles: Nate Collins (4th season), Sedrick Ellis (6th season), Corvey Irvin (4th season), Zach Minter (Rookie), Brent Russell (Rookie), Christian Tupou (Rookie)
Job Responsibilities: Provide depth and injury replacement, as well rotational support by subbing in with the various run and pass packages.
Job So Far: Ellis is the most experienced player on the depth chart but is in his first year with the Bears. He fills the Okoye spot; a disappointing first-round player who is athletic and the Bears hope a scenery and scheme change will benefit him. Collins is beginning his second year with the Bears, he has played in 22 games but has zero starts. Irvin has played in 16 games with no starts or sacks.
Confidence Level: Low. The depth is young but full of inexperience. Collins has no career sacks but should be posed to get a regular rotational job this season, along with Ellis who will look to get back in a comfort zone in the Bears' 4-3 system.
Overall Confidence Level: Low. Other than Melton, I don't see a lot to get excited about. Even Melton, who is a great player, probably wouldn't make too many people's "elite defensive linemen" lists. The group should be serviceable and along with the combination of Julius Peppers and Melton, the Bears should have a relatively strong defensive line as a whole.