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The WCG All-Bears Post-Ditka Team: defensive line

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Julius Peppers, Tommie Harris, lead a stacked Bears front four in the Post-Ditka era.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The WCG All-Bears Post-Ditka defensive line (click here for the series introduction)

Players in contention, 2017

Defensive ends: Mark Anderson (2006-2010), Trace Armstrong (1989/1993-1994), Alex Brown (2002-2009, 2x Pro Bowl alternate), Phillip Daniels (2000-2003), Adewale Ogunleye (2004-2009), Julius Peppers (2010-2013, 3x Pro Bowl, 1x All Pro), Bryan Robinson (1998-2003), Alonzo Spellman (1992-1997), Willie Young (2014-present)

Defensive tackles: Anthony Adams (2007-2011), Jim Flanagan (1994-2000), Tommie Harris (2004-2010), Henry Melton (2010-2013, 1x Pro Bowl), Ian Scott (2003-2006), Keith Traylor (2001-2003), Ted Washington (2001-2002, 1x Pro Bowl, 1x All Pro), Mike Wells (1998-2000), Chris Zorich (1991/1993-1997)

2009 picks (click here for 2009 article)

RIGHT DEFENSIVE END — Alex Brown

RIGHT DEFENSIVE TACKLE — Tommie Harris

LEFT DEFENSIVE TACKLE — Jim Flanigan

LEFT DEFENSIVE END — Adewale Ogunleye

Two seasons into the post-Ditka era, one of the signature units under Da Coach reset completely. Out were Richard Dent, Steve McMichael, William Perry, and Dan Hampton, they of Super Bowl XX and Nintendo’s Tecmo Super Bowl. In were Trace Armstrong, Chris Zorich, Albert Fontenot, and Alonzo Spellman. These four were a great story in 1994, starting rocky and ending strong on a wild card team that knocked off the division champ on the road.

BEARS V PATRIOTS
Trace Armstrong (#93) and Chris Zorich (#97) were the veterans on an evolving 1994 defensive line.

Any time a defensive unit solidifies itself, your belief in your team’s prospects improve. There’s a shift in attitude and narrative. You start to handicap games by saying, “Well, we know nobody’s moving the Washington-Traylor Wall, and therefore...” The ‘94 d-line was one of those units for me.

Micro-appreciations of obscure Bears alignments is what the WCG AB PD Team series is all about. But even those four — Armstrong, Zorich, Fontenot, Spellman — haven’t earned a spot in our starting lineup.

It should be noted that the WCG AB PD Team will be playing a 4-3, since that's what we ran for the bulk of that time. If we end up selecting Vic Fangio as our defensive coordinator, perhaps we'll incorporate some 3-4 now and again. But the starters are 4-3.

So, who gets the nod? Remember, this is an All-Bears team based strictly on production in a Bears uniform.

In 2009, our AB PD defensive ends were Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye. Julius Peppers joined the Bears in 2010, and did enough in his four seasons in Chicago to become a lock as a starter on the 2017 WCG AB PD Team. That leaves Brown and Ogunleye fighting for the other starting spot.

I love both guys. I think as a pure pass rusher, Ogunleye was better, and had a higher peak. He had 10 sacks in 2005 (Brown's high was 7 in 2006) and 6 forced fumbles in 2007 (Brown's high was 3 in 2004, 2005, and 2006). Neither made the Pro Bowl with the Bears; Brown was first-alternate in 2005 and second-alternate in 2006, and Ogunleye got absolutely jobbed in 2007 with 9 sacks and the 6 forced fumbles with 3 recoveries.

But I always felt Brown was a better all-around player. That was definitely the case in pass coverage, with 5 interceptions and 40 passes defended against Ogunleye's 1 and 16 in his time here. Brown had more tackles and was more durable, missing only the first game of his NFL career as a healthy scratch. Ogunleye missed 4 games in 2004, 1 in 2005, 2 in 2006, and 2 in 2009.

One other item to consider is that the Bears drafted Brown in 2002 and Michael Haynes in 2003 and still didn't feel secure at the position, so they traded their best wide receiver (Marty Booker) for Ogunleye, coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Dolphins and a career-high 15 sacks. Also, in 2007, the Bears decided Mark Anderson was a starter, and when they had to demote someone they demoted Brown. It was a mistake, but it happened nonetheless.

Lastly, I have to give props to Ogunleye as a fellow Indiana University English major. His IU poster outside the department office was always a delight to see.

Still, for service to the team + all-around play + durability, I'll take Brown in a pinch. Think of this as the WCG AB PD version of the walk-off sack/safety that Brown and Ogunleye co-authored in 2004 to beat the Titans. Ogunleye got credit for the safety, but that doesn’t stop their debate.

At defensive tackle, Tommie Harris is our no-brainer. An impact starter his rookie year of 2004, Harris went to the Pro Bowl in 2005, 2006, and 2007, making it in ‘06 even after missing the season’s final four games + the playoffs. I always felt (and I think most Bears fans agreed) that in 2006 we had three defensive anchors we could not afford to lose: Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, and Mike Brown. Harris in the Super Bowl would have gone a long way...

As for the other spot, in 2009 I picked Jim Flanigan, but I’ve since been convinced that Ted Washington is the way to go. He only played 19 total games with the Bears: 16 regular season games in 2001, one playoff game, and then the first two games of 2002. Yet in 2001 he was named All Pro for the first time in his career and went to his fourth Pro Bowl. He and Keith Traylor famously anchored the team’s top-rated NFL defense, stuffing the run (#2) and creating room for Brian Urlacher to roam free.

Defensive Tackle Keith Traylor #94 of the Chicago Bears
The Wall. Ted Washington (#92) and Keith Traylor (#94).

In 2012, I asked Pat Mannelly if then-teammate Julius Peppers was the best defensive lineman he’d ever played with. He said yes. I asked him for his second-best defensive line teammate. He said Washington. Done and done. Here are my colleagues on the Committee:

Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: I can’t argue with those picks. Ted an the 0 tech with Harris at the 3 tech would be a devastating interior.

Jeff Berckes: I think you nailed it. Loved Ted Washington — so happy to see him included. Tommie was unbelievably dominant until his knees caught up with him. Peppers is a Hall of Famer and Alex Brown is a fan favorite / solid player with Mario Brothers-sized hands.

Sam Householder: I have no arguments here either. Washington was very good in a short stay in Chicago.

***

Both Ogunleye and Traylor will definitely make our 53-man roster. Still, we feel great about our starting four of Washington and Harris inside and Brown and Peppers on the end. Oh, and speaking of Keith Traylor, there’s never a bad time to watch his 67-yard interception return against Jacksonville and Mark Brunell. Enjoy!

Our team:

RIGHT DEFENSIVE END — Julius Peppers

RIGHT DEFENSIVE TACKLE — Tommie Harris

LEFT DEFENSIVE TACKLE — Ted Washington

LEFT DEFENSIVE END — Alex Brown

NEXT WEDNESDAY: the unheralded man in the backfield... the fullback.

All statistics from pro-football-reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

AND NOW...

YOU BE THE JUDGE

Poll

Who is the BEST defensive end of the post-Ditka era?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Trace Armstrong
    (17 votes)
  • 11%
    Alex Brown
    (38 votes)
  • 0%
    Phillip Daniels
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Adewale Ogunleye
    (6 votes)
  • 81%
    Julius Peppers
    (271 votes)
  • 0%
    Alonzo Spellman
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    other
    (1 vote)
333 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the SECOND-best defensive end of the post-Ditka era?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Trace Armstrong
    (35 votes)
  • 58%
    Alex Brown
    (172 votes)
  • 1%
    Phillip Daniels
    (4 votes)
  • 18%
    Adewale Ogunleye
    (54 votes)
  • 8%
    Julius Peppers
    (24 votes)
  • 0%
    Alonzo Spellman
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    other
    (5 votes)
296 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the BEST defensive tackle of the post-Ditka era?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Jim Flanigan
    (4 votes)
  • 87%
    Tommie Harris
    (183 votes)
  • 0%
    Henry Melton
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Keith Traylor
    (3 votes)
  • 6%
    Ted Washington
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    Chris Zorich
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    other
    (1 vote)
209 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the SECOND-best defensive tackle of the post-Ditka era?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Jim Flanigan
    (4 votes)
  • 10%
    Tommie Harris
    (16 votes)
  • 19%
    Henry Melton
    (29 votes)
  • 9%
    Keith Traylor
    (15 votes)
  • 53%
    Ted Washington
    (81 votes)
  • 3%
    Chris Zorich
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    other
    (1 vote)
152 votes total Vote Now