The Chicago Bears like to rotate their defensive line quite a bit, and they even move the ends inside to tackle on occasion. Last season they kept nine defensive linemen to start the year, with four true DTs, four DEs, and the versatile Israel Idonije. This season we could probably expect a similar breakdown.
The projected starters, Henry Melton and Stephen Paea, are definite locks, but after them I think it's unsettled. Nate Collins probably has the best resume to warrant inclusion on the 53 man roster, but he'll get a fight from the other backups. I'll keep Collins in the lock section based off his solid rotational play last year.
I think this is going to be Paea's breakout season. With him playing between Julius Peppers and Henry Melton at times, he will have a lot of one on one opportunities. And judging by his camp work so far, he's ready to exploit those match ups. I think his technique and his feel for the game may be really coming around, remember this is a player that has only been playing football for about 8 years. His strength and quickness, along with his experience should allow him to blossom in 2013
A good bet to make it
Going through the rest of the roster, I can envision a scenario where each of the backups make a case to stick around, or each of the backups end up on the street. I don't think anyone outside the top three DTs are sure of a spot.
Jamaal Anderson has experience at both DE and at DT, and he could fill the role of a poor mans Izzy. He's the only player on the current roster that is listed at DL, instead of DT or DE. If he can get healthy and show the coaches something, I think his versatility allows him to stick around. His injury issues have knocked him down to the 4th string 3 Technique DT, so we'll have to monitor that as he begins to play more.
If the Bears do go with 4 DTs and the one DL combo player like last year, that only leaves one spot for another tackle, and that leads us to the bubble.
On the Bubble
Corvey Irvin is on his 4th team in four years, and he is a former 3rd round draft pick. Will his veteran guile be enough to unseat the other DTs battling for a spot? Irvin also is listed as Melton's backup on the 1st unofficial depth chart, so he has that going for him.
The three other guys are undrafted rookie free agents, and they will be looking to impress enough to at least stick around on the practice squad. All three are lumped in behind the nose tackles, with Zach Minter as the #3, and Christian Tupou / Brent Russell listed at co-fourth stringers. There hasn't been much word about any of these three at camp, so they will need to impress in the preseason games.
Aston Whiteside is listed on the roster as a DE, but he's listed on the depth chart as the 3rd string 3 Tech DT. He's only 6'2" 255 pounds, so I'm not sure what to make of that. Since his roster designation is DE, I'll touch on him more next time out, when we'll examine the defensive ends.
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