During the first preseason game for the Chicago Bears, the top five defensive linemen on the depth chart appeared to be starters Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Mitch Unrein, and reserves Cornelius Washington and Jonathan Bullard. These were also the only five that I tabbed in my first go at a 53 man roster prediction.
Keeping just five defensive lineman is exactly how the Bears opened the 2015 season, with Goldman, Washington, Jarvis Jenkins, Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton making the cut, although a 6th, Jeremiah Ratliff, was a on the suspended list.
Will the Bears only keep five again this year?
If they do, I think Sutton and Ferguson end up among the final cuts. During the ‘15 season the Bears really only played five guys in rotation along the d-line. With them only going with 2 down linemen in sub-packages, keeping five worked out in keeping everyone fresh.
In looking back at what Bears’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio opened the season with while coordinating the 49er D, he kept 7, 7, 6 and 8 d-linemen from 2011-2014, so only rolling with 5 last year was something new.
Against the Denver Broncos last week, Sutton played the same amount of snaps as Washington (25) and Ferguson ended up going 30 snaps, which tied for the position lead with Bullard. We all know that Bullard is making the team, and I think most would agree that Washington looked like a better player over both Sutton and Ferguson on Thursday night.
The only way I see either of the two 2014 draftees make the team is if the Bears carry 6 defensive linemen, which is a possibility.
There’s no doubt these two are feeling the numbers crunch, so keep a close eye on them tonight against the New England Patriots. They aren’t only playing for their Bears’ career, they’re playing for the other 31 teams as well.