We asked the Windy City Gridiron staffers to answer this question for a pre-season roundtable.
Are the Chicago Bears’ 2022 position groups better, worse, or a push from the groups they had for the 2021 season?
We posed the question to our team one position group at a time and rolled them out all week long. Let us know your thoughts about the defensive linemen in the comment section below after checking what we had to say here.
Move along, nothing to see here...
Aaron Leming: One could argue that it’s considerably worse. Especially when considering the amount of talent this group had before this year, unfortunately, this is the product of their transition from a 3-4 front back to a 4-3 front. It’s also what happens when any unit trades away a player like Khalil Mack. It doesn’t mean there isn’t some upside here, but unless Justin Jones turns into Akiem Hicks 2.0, it’s hard to see how this group isn’t a huge focal point of the 2023 off-season.
Jack Salo: The defensive line was a strong point for the Bears in the past few years. Not only was Akiem Hicks one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in football when healthy, but the Bears did a great job in developing defensive linemen such as Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, and Roy Robertson-Harris. Those guys are gone, and the room is full of journeymen players, such as Angelo Blackson and Mario Edwards. Hell, even their star Robert Quinn is on his fourth team. It’s also a change to 4-3, so there will be some growing pains. Give the system time but don’t count on this room being around very long on Pace and Eberflus’ roster.
Sam Householder: How can you watch Akiem Hicks leave and not say the position group got worse?
Peter Borkowski: Losing Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Bilal Nichols hurts. It hurts even more if you want to consider Khalil Mack a part of the DL rather than linebackers. But many of those lost over this offseason weren’t playing at their highest level last year. So while this year’s group is nowhere near as proven as a whole, there’s a chance it could surprise some people. Robert Quinn is still around after seemingly finding the magic touch again last year, Trevis Gipson is looking to build off a strong year, and younger players like Khyiris Tonga and Dominique Robinson are looking to prove themselves. It’s doubtful this year’s squad is as good or noteworthy as last year’s, but the potential is certainly there if the defensive staff knows how to unlock it.
Josh Sunderbruch: Worse. Quinn is going to need help.
ECD: There’s no way to sugarcoat this. The combined loss of Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks will hurt this unit for a good while. Where they have capable players primed to play in 2022, it’s more of a platoon effort than anything else. Robert Quinn headlines an otherwise unproven group that has the potential to be solid eventually.
Lester Wiltfong: The impact that a healthy Hicks and Mack could have provided won’t be matched by the duo of Justin Jones and Al-Quadin Muhammad.
Nothing to see here either.
These answers were given before the Bears tweaked their 53-man roster, but the transactions didn’t change anyone’s response.
We put the question about the d-line on Twitter, and here’s how that poll went.