The Chicago Bears' D-line had an inconsistent year in 2008 and are looking to rebound in '09.
The centerpiece of the unit is DT Tommie Harris, who had made three consecutive Pro Bowls before missing out following the past season. Harris was the Bears first round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2004.
He became the first DT to make three consecutive Pro Bowls in Bears history and was signed to a contract extension before the 2008 season making him one of the highest paid players at his position in the NFL.
Harris had his best season in 2007 when he was second in the NFL in sacks for DTs with eight. He had an up and down 2008 season missing a couple games due to injury but still managed to record five sacks and 37 tackles.
In order for Chicago to return its defense to elite status, Harris will need to regain his dominate form that he has shown in previous seasons.
Finding a player to play next to him so he isn't double teamed is key for the Bears. That player could be Marcus Harrison who was drafted from Arkansas in the third round prior to last season.
The 6'3", 310-pound DT has good size for the position and played well as a rookie last season. Harrison isn't the pass rusher that Harris is but he did show good burst into the backfield recording a couple sacks and is a stout run defender.
DT Anthony Adams went from being on the practice squad to starting eight games last year for the Bears. Adams was a second round draft pick by the 49ers in 2003 and responded with his best season in the NFL recording 49 tackles for the Bears last year before going down with an injury.
Adams has a good shot to start at the nose tackle next season next to Tommie Harris. Bears coaches were impressed with his hustle and play making ability and he has good size at 6'0", 307 pounds.
The Bears' other DT Dusty Dvoracek has been marred by injuries since being drafted out of Oklahoma in the 2006 draft and has only played in a total of 13 games for the Bears.
His first two seasons were completely wiped off the board due to injuries and it seems that he is another player in the long line of Bears players who just can't stay on the field. If Chicago takes a DT in the upcoming draft or signs someone in free agency Dvoracek could find himself in the unemployment line.
The Bears DEs are led by starters Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye.
Brown was picked in the forth round of the 2002 draft and has been the most consistent end on the team over the past few seasons. Brown has been the iron man on defense playing in 115 consecutive games for Chicago.
He has been in the top 10 in tackles for the Bears every year and has recorded 37.5 sacks during his seven year career. The 6'3", 260-pound Brown has appeared in two Pro Bowls and had a good year in '08 totaling 42 tackles and six sacks.
Brown's partner in crime is Ogunleye who lines up on the left side. Ogunleye wasn't drafted and signed as a free agent with the Dolphins in 2000.
The Bears acquired him in a trade in 2004 for WR Marty Booker and a draft pick. Ogunleye was coming off a monster '03 season in which he finished second in the NFL with 15.5 sacks. Although he hasn't quite achieved that number of sacks with the Bears, he does lead the team over the past five seasons with 35.5 sacks.
He has a propensity for recovering fumbles and has recovered eight of them since 2004 leading the team.
The Bears third DE is Mark Anderson who they acquired in the fifth round of the 2006 draft from Alabama. Anderson burst onto the scene as a rookie leading the team with 12 sacks which was the third highest total for a rookie in NFL history.
Anderson replaced Brown as the starter prior to the '07 season and his numbers declined to only five sacks. Last season was a very disappointing one for Anderson who lost his starting job back to Brown and finished with only a single sack.
The Bears' jack of all trades on the D-line is DT/DE Israel Idonije who was acquired as a free agent by Chicago in 2003.
Idonije is a special teams ace who enjoyed his best season in Chicago last year tallying 23 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He is a versatile player who can play outside at end or come inside and play tackle on the Bears defense.
Chicago's biggest offseason addition on the D-line wasn't a player but a new coach so far in coach Rod Marinelli.
He was a highly-respected defensive line coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2005 before spending the last three seasons as head coach of the Detroit Lions. Marinelli groomed future hall of famers Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice in Tampa and his passion and knowledge on the D-line is a welcome addition in Chicago.
His first task since coming to Chicago has been to work with the young Mark Anderson and try to get him back to the level he played at as a rookie in '06.
So far the Bears D-linemen have been impressed with their new coach and DE Alex Brown had this to say;“When we come out on the field, we’re going to give him everything we’ve got. Not to say we didn’t do it previously, but I believe that you’ll listen a little more.
"You won’t question as much when it’s somebody that’s been through it and has done it and produced the type of defensive linemen he’s able to produce.”
Hopefully Marinelli will be able to light a fire under the talented but under achieving linemen.
The Bears will probably be looking to add another player or two to the D-line in the upcoming NFL draft. With four of the top 99 picks a young pass rusher will most likely be drafted with one of them.
With more pressing needs at WR and on the O-line, I would venture to guess that Chicago will use one of their two third-round picks on a DE. Look for Tommie Harris to have a bounce back season and with the core of DE's that the Bears have they should be in good shape for the 2009 season.
I would bet on second year player Marcus Harrison winning the starting DT spot opposite Harris, but Anthony Adams will definitely challenge and at the very least see a lot of playing time.
All together Chicago has a lot of talent on the D-line and with the addition of Marinelli should be in good shape to improve and get back to the domination that Bears fans have come to know.
This article was part five of an eight part series that my fellow writer Joey Garcia and I have taken turns writing. The Chicago Bears Offensive analysis has already been written and if you missed any of them give them a read I have provided the links below.