Observations from the 53-man Roster…Part 2 – Defense
We started our roster observations with the offense in Part 1, now we will look at the defense and special teams.
(starters in bold)
Defensive Line: #90 Julius Peppers; #95 Anthony Adams; #69 Henry Melton; #71 Israel Idonije; #91 Amobi Okoye; #98 Corey Wootton; #75 Matt Toeaina; #96 Mario Addison; #92 Stephen Paea; #94 Nick Reed
The defensive line pretty much returns in tact from last season—the only real change here as far as starters go is Melton replacing Tommie Harris-Matt Toeaina as the starting 3-technique. Corey Wootton showed flashes last season and should see the majority of the action spelling Peppers and Idonije at DE. Amobi Okoye and Toeaina will provide the depth at DT. I am not sure how much playing time rookie DT Paea will see this season, unless he supplants Toeaina as the backup to Adams at the other DT position. Mario Addison came out of nowhere this preseason and earned a spot on this team, and should see some action on special teams. I have a feeling Reed is here to fill a spot until Wootton (who was hurt in Week one of the preseason) and his knee are ready to go. Again, just like we mentioned with the offensive line, you have alot of interchangeable parts here, with Idonije having the ability to move inside and Melton and Okoye being able to slide outside, if needed. Overall, you have to feel like Melton/Okoye should be an upgrade from Toeaina/Harris, which should open things up for Peppers and Idonije to build on their 16 combined sacks in 2010.
Linebackers: #55 Lance Briggs; #54 Brian Urlacher; #53 Nick Roach; #52 Brian Iwuh; #58 Dom DiCicco
At first glance, linebacker would not seem like a weak spot for the Bears. I did have some concern when we went into camp with as many undrafted free agents as we did; and now that J.T. Thomas is lost for the year after being placed on injured reserve, we have two backups who came into the league undrafted and are better suited to be special teamers at this point. In other words, our depth is SCARY THIN. A few waiver wire names have been mentioned (AJ Edds), and I think we will see Pisa Tinoisamoa back here as soon as he is healthy. But this is certainly a position to keep an eye on going into the season.
Cornerbacks: #33 Charles Tillman; #26 Tim Jennings; #30 DJ Moore; #21 Corey Graham; #35 Zack Bowman
You have to think the Bears were somewhat disappointed that Bowman or the recently-cut Josh Moore could not unseat Jennings at the corner spot opposite Tillman; but you can get by with Jennings. He is a competitor and plays bigger than his size. Tillman stayed healthy and had possibly his most consistent season in 2010. DJ Moore emerged as a playmaker and has found a perfect niche as the nickel corner. Graham is an okay backup and elite special teams performer. The Bears continue to wait and hold out hope that one day Bowman can reach the flashes of potential he showed as a rookie. The play of this group will be HUGE, as all the ‘elite’ NFC teams that we would probably end up playing in the postseason (Packers, Eagles, Falcons, Saints) employ a ton of 3-WR sets.
Safeties: #46 Chris Harris; #27 Major Wright; #31 Brandon Meriweather; #20 Craig Steltz; #47 Chris Conte; #36 Winston Venable
The Bears made a major splash on the Monday after final cuts by scooping up FS Brandon Meriweather from the Patriots; whether this is an indictment of Major Wright’s inability to get anywhere hear a football in the air, the Bears hedging their bet against Chris Harris leaving after the season, or just seeing an opportunity to grab a potentially elite player remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: he will bring a big-play ability to our secondary that we haven’t had since Mike Brown was staying healthy and running back interceptions for touchdowns every week. I do not think the Bears would be upset if the starters at safety were Harris and Meriweather by Week 3 against the Packers. Steltz, Conte and Venable provide some depth, but are more on the teams for what they can do on special teams at this point.
Special Teams: LS #65 Pat Mannelly; K #9 Robbie Gould; P #8 Adam Podlesh
Mannelly and Gould have and should remain among the league’s best at their respective positions; Podlesh was brought in and was somewhat inconsistent in the preseason. He should, however, be an upgrade over last season’s punter, Brad Maynard, who was near the bottom of the league in punting average; and whose sorry hangtime led to some big punt returns against the Bears last season.