Training camp is open! And there’s a certain buzz surrounding the Chicago Bears as they prepare for the 2021 season with workouts and practices at Halas Hall. So with camp in full swing and the preseason approaching, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
• 2020 stats: 3.5 sacks, 49 total tackles, 7 tackles-for-loss, 21 QB Hits, 0 forced fumbles (1 recovery), 1 pass defended; 65.2 grade from Pro Football Focus (61st of 126 qualifiers)
• 2020 stats: 2.0 sacks, 20 total tackles, 0 tackles-for-loss, 6 QB Hits, 3 forced fumbles (1 recovery); 71.4 grade from PFF (36th of 126)
• Notable: Did not play in 2020.
The New Guys:
Khyiris Tonga and Mike Pennel might be the two most important additions to this position group. Because while we might not think much of it if Eddie Goldman comes back in full force, the depth could prove to be invaluable. Last year, the Bears were scrambling for help at nose tackle. But in an attempt to not repeat history again, Chicago’s front office was wise enough to draft Tonga and sign Pennel for depth purposes.
Don’t Forget About:
Angelo Blackson figures to fill the role Brent Urban was a rock star in last season. This might not seem like a big deal, but it isn’t inconsequential. Urban was in on 35 percent of defensive snaps, but also made eight starts, and chipped in with 2.5 sacks, 4 QB Hits, and 2 tackles-for-loss. Someone needs to fill in across the line in a moment’s notice, which is reason enough to add someone like Blackson to this roster.
Blackson, who turns 29 in November, came up with 2.5 sacks, 8 QB Hits, and 4 tackles-for-loss while playing 50 percent of Arizona’s defensive plays. If he can match what Urban did last year, we won’t see a drop-off in production from the guys in the trenches.
What to Watch For:
Eddie Goldman is at top of mind here. Goldman is currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he is missing out on valuable practice time after sitting out the entire 2020 season. The Bears showed they could hold it down without Goldman, but the defense isn’t the same without him.
We Really Like:
Any time Akiem Hicks is Mic’d Up is a blessing.
We Might Be Worried About:
In addition to my concerns about Goldman’s health, I’m curious what we’ll see out of Akiem Hicks. It’s a contract year for the 31-year-old who serves as the heartbeat of Chicago’s defense. But his 3.5 sacks were his fewest he has put up in a season in which he played at least 15 games since joining the Bears in 2016. Then again, his 21 QB Hits wee a career best. So maybe I shouldn’t be that worried.
This is one of those position groups that I feel most confident in when entering the 2021 season. Sure, I expect they’ll miss DL Coach Jay Rodgers in some form or capacity. HOWEVER, this collection of talent can still get the job done if it stays healthy. And with Hicks looking to prove he still has gas in the tank, I won’t dare sell this group short.