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Bears’ DL Could Be Bright Spot In 2022

  • Carmen Vitali
  • August 9, 2022
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Allow me to deviate a bit from most of the news surrounding the Chicago Bears. While most are talking about the offensive line (and rightfully so given how far off the Bears are from establishing a starting five), I want to talk about the other side of the trenches. I think Chicago’s defensive line could be a bright spot in a season with otherwise dim expectations. 

The defense will be switching to a 4-3 base under Head Coach Matt Eberflus and Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams and their current personnel looks like it’ll be able to make the transition pretty seamlessly. 

Starting on the outside, you have veterans Robert Quinn and Al-Quadin Muhammad. The latter came from Indianapolis and is perhaps the most familiar with Eberflus’ system and tendencies than anyone on the roster. He’s taken on a leadership-type role as a result—especially with the more vocal linebacker Roquan Smith currently on a hold-in at Halas Hall.

Quinn had tremendous success in the Bears’ 3-4 last year, setting the single-season franchise record with 18.5 sacks, but as he pointed out last week, playing in a 4-3 is like being ‘back at home’ after he spent most of his career as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. Quinn and Muhammad are two formidable pass rushers to contend with for opposing offenses right off the bat.

Chicago also has some flexibility with versatile players that make for some very multiple fronts we were able to catch a glimpse of in camp.

Trevis Gipson is one such versatile player. The Bears had him aligned both inside and out as he looks to make a bigger step forward in 2022. In one-on-one drills with offensive linemen, Gipson was quick, physical, and he looked to have some finesse in the form of pass-rush moves that he was likely working on this offseason. His 6-foot-4, 263-pound frame allows him to play all along the line and if he isn’t in the rotation with Quinn and Muhammad, he could play on the interior to open up opportunities for them if not push the pocket himself. 

Rookie Dominique Robinson is someone that also ‘intrigues’ his coaches—both on defense and special teams. Eberflus used those exact words when referring to Robinson and the opinion of the defensive coaching staff. It’s likely that he could be a dark horse with his versatility and size, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 253 pounds.

As far as players on the interior, they are going largely overlooked ever since a deal to acquire Larry Ogunjobi fell through after a failed physical this offseason. Chicago lost three of its top interior linemen with Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Bilal Nichols moving on but were able to sign Justin Jones from the Chargers. Khyiris Tonga is entering his second year in the league and has had a great camp so far. If they can find guys to go inside and outside, therefore getting into the interior rotation, they could have the benefit of confusion on their side. Smith directing traffic from the middle, provided he ends the aforementioned hold-in soon, alongside a guy like Matt Adams, who came in from Indianapolis, or even Nicholas Morrow, will help the defensive line, too.

The secondary looks to be set, as well. The rookies are impressive with Kyler Gordon already working in the nickel spot, skipping the acclimation period on the outside opposite Jaylon Johnson. Kindle Vildor looks to be the other outside corner at this stage in camp and the safeties—whew, buddy. Jaquan Brisker is the most pleasant surprise of camp. He’s made play after play on the ball seemingly every practice and should help Eddie Jackson return to form like Bears fans hope he can.

With the ability to lean on the back levels, the defensive line can be a little bit more aggressive and perhaps have a little bit more room for error as they figure things out. But watch for some creativity this year—starting up front.

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Carmen Vitali