As the Chicago Bears begin their training camp this week, we’re taking a look at the positional battles that are likely going to develop on the practice fields of Bourbonnais.
Today, we’re taking a look at the team’s defensive line.
Like many other positions on the Bears’ roster, their front three on defense is pretty well set for the coming year. Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols are the most likely candidates to start at the defensive end positions in 2019, and Eddie Goldman has solidified his standing as one of the top nose tackles in the NFL.
While Hicks and Goldman are well-established commodities at this point, it is Nichols who could potentially be a player to watch if fans are looking for a player that could take a big step forward in the coming year. He had three sacks in 14 games a season ago to go along with 20 solo tackles, but on a roster loaded with pass rushing talent, he should get plenty of favorable matchups this season.
Nichols also can make plays on the ball, forcing a pair of fumbles in his rookie season, and that could be another area of improvement, with turnover specialists like Hicks and Khalil Mack on the field.
The Bears have plenty of defensive linemen in their training camp this season, but it would seem as though three of them have the best chance of making the roster out of the summer practice session.
Defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris will most likely be the back-ups on opening night in September, and Abdullah Anderson, a Bucknell product who spent last season on the Bears’ practice squad, is a prime candidate to back up Goldman up the middle for a Bears squad that prides itself on having a strong pass rush.
The Odd Men Out:
In a 3-4 system, there will always be more emphasis placed on the linebacker position than the defensive line, but there are a few players that could potentially make some noise on the practice fields of Bourbonnais.
Nick Williams is one such player, as he registered a tackle for loss in two games with the Bears a season ago. He has 14 total tackles in three NFL seasons, including stops with the Chiefs and Dolphins, and could make a big push to try to make the team’s roster out of training camp.
A group of undrafted free agents will also get a look during camp, including Jonathan Harris, freshly activated from the physically unable to perform list, Chuck Harris, and Jalen Dalton.
In all likelihood, the Bears will only keep six linemen on the roster, but they could pull a surprise by adding a seventh depending on how things look with the system that Chuck Pagano will implement in his first season.
For more of NBC Chicago's coverage of the Bears' position battles:
7/24 Linebacker breakdown