It feels like the greatest strength and weakness of the Bears defense flip-flopped in the span of one offseason. In 2021, the defensive line was formidable with experienced pass rushers and interior linemen creating havoc for opposing offenses, while the secondary couldn’t keep up with receivers and were repeatedly gasshed. Now, the defensive line appears to be a legitimate concern while the secondary looks dangerous with tons of young talent. It goes to show how much can change so quickly in the NFL.
Former stalwarts Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, and Eddie Goldman, faces of a defensive line that burned bright for a short amount of time, are now on other teams. Replacing them are players such as newcomers Al-Quadin Muhammad and Justin Jones, and holdovers Trevis Gipson and Khyris Tonga, all learning a new scheme under first-year head coach Matt Eberflus.
It’s a cliché at this point, but everything in football starts at the line of scrimmage. The defensive line has undergone significant change since last season ended and simply aren’t as talented on paper as they were to start the year in 2021. They whiffed on their first big free agent signee when defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi failed his physical, their new single-season sack record holder Robert Quinn seemingly wants out of town, and their nose tackle is far from solidified yet.
While they do have some potential breakout players in place, such as Gipson, this group makes me extremely nervous going into the season. If they struggle, it puts more pressure on the backside of the defense and makes everyone’s jobs that much tougher.