The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public arrives on July 27, and we’ll be there! But with training camp rapidly approaching and the team’s August 8 debut at home against the Panthers around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Today: Defensive linemen
The Starters: Akiem Hicks (7.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 16 quarterback hits, 12 tackles-for-loss, 3 forced fumbles; 91.6 PFF grade), Eddie Goldman (3.0 sacks, 40 tackles, 2 quarterback hits, 5 tackles-for-loss, 1 fumble recovery; 89.2 PFF grade), Bilal Nichols (3.0 sacks, 28 tackles, 7 quarterback hits, 5 tackles-for-loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery; 77.0 PFF grade)
The Backups: Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams, Bijhon Jackson, Jonathan Harris, Daryle Banfield, Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton
Potential Training Camp Star: Bilal Nichols earned the highest grade of last year’s rookie draft picks and eventually played his way into a starting role. More importantly, Nichols was often on the field when the Bears were closing games. He made the most of his opportunities by creating pressures and disrupting ball-carriers in the backfield. If Nichols continues to take snaps alongside Goldman and Hicks on the first-team defense, chances are good the Delaware product will continue to flash.
We Really Like: Roy Robertson-Harris has been a personal favorite of mine for a few years now. A successful transition from a stand-up, pass-rushing outside linebacker into a stout 3-4 defensive end gives Robertson-Harris a unique skillset that makes him a force as a harassed of quarterbacks and a menace to running backs. We even talked about Robertson-Harris as a creative alternative to any pass-rush issue the Bears might run into this year. Talk about versatility!
We Might Be Worried About: What happens if Eddie Goldman misses an extended amount of time? Good nose tackles are hard to find in modern football, but the Bears got one in Goldman. Unfortunately, that position group is relatively shallow and getting a backup who can bring what Goldman can isn’t easy. Nick Williams is the only experienced nose tackle behind Goldman on the roster, but doesn’t have much Bears tape to discuss.
2019 Forecast: Overall, the Bears’ collection of defensive linemen is as good as it gets. The rotation of reserves allows for the whole unit to stay fresh throughout the game. I love it, but I can’t imagine opposing offensive linemen or quarterbacks are fond of the relentless waves of defensive line pressure the Bears can throw out on any given play.
The only way this group gets better is if they found a way to add Mike Daniels at some point this summer. It’s a long shot, but nothing like the idea of the rich getting richer at the expense of the Packers.