Getting to Know the 2018 Chicago Bears: Defensive Line

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Getting to Know the 2018 Chicago Bears: Defensive Line

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public has come and gone. And with training camp underway and the team’s August 2 debut at the Hall of Fame Game around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide receivers, Tight ends, Offensive tackles, Guards/centers.

Today: Defensive line

The Starters: Akiem Hicks (8.5 sacks, 54 tackles, 87.1 Pro Football Focus grade), Eddie Goldman (1.5 sacks, 44 tackles, 76.3), Jonathan Bullard (1.0 sack, 26 tackles, 75.8)

The Reserves: Roy Robertson-Harris, Cavon Walker, Bunmi Rotimi, Nick Williams, Bilal Nichols, John Jenkins, Abdullah Anderson

Potential Training Camp Star: The battle between Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris will probably emerge as a training camp darling. Funny thing is, both were summer stars last year. Bullard bounced back with a quality camp and strong preseason, which was pleasant to see after he failed to find his footing during his rookie year. The 2016 season essentially served as a redshirt campaign for Robertson-Harris, an undrafted free agent signing out of UTEP who transitioned from an edge rushing outside linebacker to a 3-4 defensive end. Robertson-Harris flashed a few times during the preseason and is in position to earn a starting job if he can upend Bullard, who filled in nicely for Mitch Unrein after he went down with a season-ending injury.

We Really Like: Akiem Hicks’ growth as a player has been the most pleasant surprise of the Ryan Pace era. Signing Hicks away from the New England Patriots, then rewarding him with a well-deserved long-term deal is at the top of the team’s best transactions since Pace arrived. Hicks is one of the few 3-4 defensive ends who excels as a pass-rusher and run-stuffer. No wonder Bleacher Report’s team of scouts said he was the best at the position last year.

We Might Be Worried About: Mitch Unrein was an underrated member of the Bears defense, especially as a run-stopper. So while Bullard and Robertson-Harris are in a position to fill the snaps left behind by Unrein, doing so successfully isn’t expected to be easy. The Bears could have issues at the position if neither can step into Unrein’s starting job and deliver similar contributions. Though, I suppose that could leave rookie draft pick Bilal Nichols lined up to play a bigger part than expected as a rookie … but he’ll have to put together a strong camp for that to happen.

2018 Forecast: The defensive line is viewed as a strength because Hicks and nose tackle Eddie Goldman are anchors. Hicks already played his way into an extension and you can make a case that Goldman has done the same. If those two can maintain their stellar play, get Bullard and/or Robertson-Harris step up, and Nichols can chip in as a rookie, then the front line of the Bears defense will be strong again.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.