Last season, the defensive line for the Chicago Bears was, in a phrase, a total train wreck. Between injuries to players like Henry Melton to the struggles of Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin to generate pressure off the edges, the line was one of the worst in the NFL, and the statistics certainly bore that out as the Bears were one of the worst defenses in the league overall.
Over this offseason however, GM Phil Emery has been reconstructing the line from scratch. Guys like Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff are still in the fold, but a whole new cast of characters is going to be joining the team in Bourbonnais when training camp starts in July. On the ends the Bears recruited three new free agent signings, headlined by Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, and they also brought in Willie Young to help out.
During the NFL Draft over the weekend, the Bears brought in a couple more guys who could potentially be lynchpins on the line for years to come. In the second round, the team took Ego Ferguson out of LSU, and they immediately followed that up in the third round by taking Will Sutton out of Arizona State.
Both players potentially possess first round caliber talent, but neither player finished off his college career in the strongest way possible. Ferguson is essentially like a defensive version of Kyle Long, having not started many games in his collegiate career but in possession of great athleticism and untapped potential that Emery and company really were intrigued by. After getting his college career off to a bad start by missing a season for academic reasons, Sutton played well in the 2012 season, but was hampered by double-teams in his final season with the Sun Devils.
Even still, both players are going to be looked to as building blocks for future success for the line. Sutton is incredibly quick off the snap and is a potential star in the making as a pass-rusher, while Ferguson is more versatile and will likely be looked at as both a run stopper and a pass rusher in the middle. He has quick feet, and even though there are some areas of his game he needs to work on, like his ability to shed blocks, he has the strength and speed to do so with proper coaching.
It’s been a while since the Bears have had a truly dominant player on the defensive line that they’ve acquired through the draft. Guys like Allen and Peppers were both free agent acquisitions, so if the Bears can hit on either the Ferguson or Sutton picks, then they would be in great shape moving into the future under Mel Tucker’s guidance on that side of the ball.