The defensive end position intrigues me as much as any as the Chicago Bears are readying themselves for training camp, not only because this another position affected by the move to a 4 man front, but because the situation surrounding veteran Robert Quinn. It’s no secret the Bears would be willing to move on from the 32-year old pass rusher, but the timing of the move has to be perfect to maximize value. Plus they need to be comfortable with the player taking his place in the lineup, and the depth at the position.
There are some high upside, young edge rushers in camp, so their development is yet another fun storyline to monitor these next couple months.
Let’s get to Quinn right away; he’s the best pass rusher on the team and unless he’s traded he’s an obvious lock. My guess is the Bears drag this out to the trade deadline in hopes of pulling a Von Miller-like deal from a contender looking for a nudge to the Super Bowl. The return won’t be as high as the Miller deal (a 2nd and 3rd), but if they can get a couple teams interested they could entice one to overpay.
The next two defensive ends on the depth chart are the returning Trevis Gipson and free agent acquisition Al-Quadin Muhammad. Gipson blossomed a year ago in his second season by setting career numbers across the board, but the 27-year old Muhammad had a career year too in Indianapolis.
The Colts acquired Muhammad in 2018, Matt Eberflus’ first year coordinating their defense, and his development was a steady process. He was a rotational defensive end for three years, getting a few spot starts here and there, but in 2021 he started all 17 games while picking up 48 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 13 QB hits, and a forced fumble.
“Quan represents the play style coach Eberflus wants our entire team to have,” Chicago GM Ryan Poles said after he signed Muhammad. “His motor and desire to affect the game stands out.”
If Gipson and Muhammad have strong camps and flash in the preseason, I’m sure it would make Poles more comfortable pulling the trigger on a Quinn trade.
The Bears fifth round draft pick, Dominique Robinson (6’5”, 253 pounds), is another lock based on his upside. The former quarterback and wide receiver only started playing defensive end in 2020, so he’s still honing his skills.
“Anytime you can rush the passer, that’s a trait that you can hang your hat on,” Chicago area scout Brendan Rehor said following the draft. “That’s a trait we look for. You can never have too many pass rushers, and this kid can do that. The athlete stands out. There’s only upside with this kid, which is what we’re betting on and what we invested in. The athlete himself, the frame, he’s a lean dude. He started as an offensive player… but there’s only upside with this kid. There’s only athletic ability. There’s a lot of stuff to work with with him.”
A good bet to make it
The Colts opened the 2021 season with 11 defensive linemen, so it’s possible Eberflus wants something similar in Chicago. The mix of DE and DT will be interesting to see play out, and if any linemen show an ability to play both off the edge and on the interior he could have an advantage.
The first bubble guy I mention could fall into that DE/DT combo category.
On the bubble
Sam Kamara got some playing time a year ago as a UDFA rookie, and considering he was going from the d-line at Stoney Brook to an outside linebacker position with the Bears, I was impressed with his play. At 6’2”, 288 pounds I thought a move inside to defensive tackle made sense, but early reports have him still coming off the edge.
Undrafted free agent Carson Taylor (6’3”, 241) and 2021 UDFA Charles Snowden (6’7”, 245) will be battling with Kamara for a roster spot, or at the very least a place of the practice squad.
Snowden is now a full year removed from the ankle injury that caused him to go undrafted, and a switch to defensive end with fresh set of eyes on him could be what he needs to make a push for the 53-man roster.
Taylor had a solid offseason according to various reports from Halas Hall, and his speed off the edge (he ran a 4.59 forty at his pro day) is sure to impress during training camp.
Which of these young defensive ends are you most looking forward to seeing this offseason?