Before the Chicago Bears traded for Eddy Pineiro, the answer to this question would have easily been kicker. You could even argue that with Pineiro’s inexperience, kicker is still the biggest hole on the roster.
But what if this question was posed before Ryan Pace sent a conditional 7th-rounder to the Raiders for a kicker?
Would you have ever guessed that the Bears’ biggest hole was defensive front depth?
In a recent ESPN Insider piece, Football Outsiders looked at the biggest hole on each roster following the 2019 NFL draft and they picked that for the Bears.
Here’s what they had to say about Chicago’s defensive front depth.
Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman: That’s about as strong a defensive core as any team can ask for. This is a versatile, overwhelming group that propelled the Bears to rank ninth in adjusted line yards allowed last season. They also ranked third in the league with 50 sacks. Depth, however, is a concern. Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving and Kylie Fitts present an unsettling fallback plan in the event of injury to either Mack or Floyd. Likewise, rotational interior defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris are both in contract years and need to step up their level of play to prove the Bears should not replace them in 2020.
I’m assuming they’re only talking about the defensive line, and by extension, the edge defenders, because that’s all they mention.
But I still disagree with that assessment.
I would have been on board had they gone with edge rusher depth as a weakness, because after Mack and Floyd, Lynch is a serviceable spot starter at best. He had a nice bounce-back year in 2018 after two disappointing years with the 49ers, but how much of that was attributed to being reunited with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio? With Fangio in Denver now, Lynch, who is still only 26-years old, will need to prove he’s focused on being the best he can be.
Everything else at outside linebacker is a question mark.
But the defensive line proved to be capable a year ago with Pro Bowler Akiem Hicks and nose tackle Eddie Goldman leading the way. Bilal Nichols flashed as a rookie and was starting by year’s end, and Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard are both capable reserves.
Robertson-Harris is still an ascending player, and this will only be his third year playing the position. He tied for third on the Bears in 2018 with 11 quarterback hits (3 sacks), and he’s set to be a restricted free agent after the 2019 season, so he could play himself into a nice tender offer.
Bullard has never lived up to the ‘steal of the draft’ label that was put on him when the Bears got him in the third-round in 2016, but he’s a good rotational defensive lineman. He’s never been able to figure out how to get to the quarterback, but his run defense is solid on first and second down.
They’ll need some young outside linebackers and defensive linemen to step up this offseason to prove worthy of a bottom of the roster spot, but if you ask me, the group of Mack, Floyd, Lynch, Hicks, Goldman, Nichols, RRH, and Bullard is far from a hole on the roster.