SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston #99 of the Oakland Raiderslooks on from the sidelines in the game with the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 10, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Raiders won 24-17. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Chicago Bears will begin training camp this week in Bourbonnais, and as we prepare for the team to hit the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Grizzly Detail is here to bring you a breakdown of the various position battles that will be taking place.
Today we will focusing our attention on the team’s defensive line.
New faces are all over the Bears’ lineup this year, and nowhere is the roster turnover more apparent than on the defensive line. Both defensive ends will be new players for the Bears, as Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston look to both boost an anemic pass rush and to help prevent a similar collapse in the run defense that characterized the Bears’ 2013 season.
At the tackle positions, there will be battles for both roles, with Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea likely having to fend off rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton for the starting roles when the season gets started in September.
A couple of familiar faces to Bears fans will be competing for snaps when camp begins in Bourbonnais, with Nate Collins vying for playing time at defensive tackle and Cornelius Washington and David Bass pushing for snaps at the defensive end positions. One new player looking to make an impact at defensive end will be Willie Young, who joined the Bears as a free agent after playing for the Detroit Lions last season.
What to Watch For:
Unquestionably, the battle for starting jobs at the defensive tackle positions will be one to watch for. Both Sutton and Ferguson bring different skills to the table, with Sutton being more of a pass rusher and a quick guy off the snap, while Ferguson is more of a run-stopper with his large frame and great strength. Both still have a lot of work to do in terms of honing their games however, and that could be an advantage for Ratliff and Paea as they look to fend off the competition.
Perhaps just as importantly to the Bears will be how quickly Allen and Houston get into the flow of things at the ends of the line. Last season, the Bears couldn’t get to the quarterback, and perhaps more frustratingly, couldn’t keep running backs from blasting through the line and around the plodding defensive ends. Moving Shea McClellin back to linebacker should help alleviate at least a bit of that ineffectiveness (at least in the latter category), but both new players are going to have to be a lot better than their 2013 counterparts were.
When all is said and done, the big question for the Bears on the defensive line won’t be which players win the starting jobs, but how the pieces will fit together in Week 1. Houston is a dynamite run stopper that has shown flashes of being a good pass rusher, but he will really improve in that area if Allen is able to command double teams in a way that Julius Peppers simply wasn’t last season. Adding strength and speed to the middle of the line is going to help out as well, but both Ferguson and Sutton have to be quick studies in order to make the most out of the additions.