The Chicago Bears defensive line is a work in progress. After Ryan Poles signed Justin Jones in 2022, spent two day two picks on defensive tackles in 2023 plus adding Andrew Billings and a late round pick in Travis Bell, the defensive tackle positions have taken on a wild face-lift in just two offseasons.
Defensive end is a different story. Whether it was by choice or just because the cards didn’t fall his way, Poles did very little to boost the edge position for 2023. He signed Demarcus Walker who will definitely start at one edge position, but don’t be shocked if you see him bump inside on passing downs, but as of right now, the other edge position is wide open. Poles has talked about adding another edge to the room prior to training camp, but he still hasn’t at this point. Whether another edge is added into the mix or not, Dominique Robinson and Trevis Gipson will be competing in training camp. They just don’t know if it’s for the starting edge position or the top rotational edge spot.
If Poles does add a starting level edge, Gipson and Robinson will be competing to be the top rotational edge. That position could be highly important if Walker does in fact bounce inside on passing downs, the top rotational edge will regularly be in on passing downs trying to create pressure. If Poles doesn’t add a starting level edge, the position will be to see who is starting on Sundays. Either way, the battle will be an important one.
Obviously, nobody should be sleeping on Rahseem Green. Green is entering his sixth season and third team. He’s proven to be a reliable, but unspectacular rotational edge. The Bears should not count on Green to be anything more than that. If Green becomes a starting edge for the Bears, it most likely will be because nobody else was up to the task.
Both Robinson and Gipson are fifth round picks. Gipson was drafted with he 155th overall pick back in 2020 while Robinson was the 174th overall pick in 2022. The big difference here? Gipson is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is a Ryan Pace holdover. Robinson was one of Ryan Poles selections from his first draft.
Gipson flashed a nice season in 2021 but he regressed in 2022 despite seeing a spike in playing time. Robinson showed plenty of potential with a big opening game against the San Francisco 49ers, but had more production in that game than he did during the rest of the season.
Whichever one of these edges flashes the most pass rushing ability is the one that most likely will emerge with more playing time. While playing the run and setting the edge is important, the biggest key to this Bears defense is going to be if their edge room can generate a pass rush. And the smart money right now is that they won’t, unless guys like Gipson and/or Robinson emerge.
Gipson is in the final year of his contract and will be playing for his future in Chicago. Robinson is entering his second NFL season, but just his third at defensive end. Prior to his final collegiate season, Robinson was a receiver. Robinson’s raw talent is certainly a reason why he might catapult past Gipson this training camp. But his inexperience at the position is also a reason why Gipson may hold onto his spot.
You can expect Ryan Poles to add two viable edges in 2024. With Robinson and Walker already almost ensured to be on the 2024 roster, that means Gipson is going to have to win this battle and shine during the 2023 season if he wants to return to Chicago in 2024.
The training camp battle at edge could be the most critical one for the 2023 Chicago Bears. These players need to create a pass rush, and we’ll start having an idea whether or not they can do that as training camp and the preseason unfolds.