Few positions on the Chicago Bears’ roster seem as set in stone as the defensive line. The only major contributor that isn’t returning is Mitch Unrein, but they addressed the position in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will need someone to step in and fill Unrein’s role, but that guy was probably identified last year, which is why they decided to let Unrein walk as a free agent.
Akiem Hicks, who should have been in the Pro Bowl last year at defensive end, and Eddie Goldman, who plays the underappreciated nose tackle position, are going to be anchoring the d-line again in 2018. Jonathan Bullard filled in last year when Unrein was hurt, and he looks to be the starting 5-technique defensive end opposite Hicks. His first step quickness has shown up during preseason the last two years, but the Bears will need him to put it all together during the season if he wins the starting job.
Eddie Goldman said he and Akiem Hicks have benefited from the 'explosive' Jonathan Bullard: "He can get to a gap so fast, and you can play off him because you see him so early."— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) July 21, 2018
Roy Robertson-Harris figures to be the first player off the bench, and I thought he flashed some athleticism last year, his first as a defensive lineman. Rookie Bilal Nichols isn’t going anywhere either. He played some on the nose last year at Delaware, but that wasn’t the best fit for the 6’4”, 290 pounder.
A good bet to make it
I think veteran John Jenkins sticks as the back up nose tackle again. The 29-year old appeared in eight games last year while playing in 152 total snaps. There’s a chance the Bears want to go younger, but all things being equal, I think they take the veteran in this situation. Especially since Jenkins is the only guy on the roster with the girth (327 pounds) to man the nose if Goldman goes down.
Fangio has kept six up front his three previous years in Chicago, so if that’s the case again, then these next four bubble guys are all fighting for a practice squad job.
On the bubble
Four year veteran Nick Williams (6’4”, 297) is in camp and he’ll be trying to win a role as a back up, but he’ll be in battle with three undrafted free agents; Cavon Walker (6’2”, 278), Bunmi Rotimi (6’4”, 275), and Abdullah Anderson (6’4”, 295). Of the three UDFAs, I think Anderson has the bets chance to stick on the practice squad.
EDIT: The Bunmi era ended before is ever really go started as he was waived.