Chicago Bears Season End Review Part VI: The Defensive Linemen

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IFebruary 15, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears is blocked by Sean Locklear #75 of the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears had a nice resurgence on the defensive line this season thanks to the acquisition of defensive end Julius Peppers.  Chicago went out and spent a lot of money in free agency (which is very unusual for them) to bring in what many considered to be the top defensive end in the NFL.  With that, the Bears' coaching staff felt that their defense would be much better than it had in the past.

This past season was a make or break season for defensive tackle Tommie Harris and it appears as if he’s going to be on his way out of Chicago.  Injuries and problems staying motivated have brought Harris down in the eyes of the coaching staff and the team may decide to let him walk instead of paying him the money that he’s going to be getting if he stays around in 2011.

Both Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina had pretty nice seasons for the Bears but aren’t long term answers for the team at the defensive tackle position.  They are nice in a rotation but the Bears need some additional power on the line especially after the decline of Harris (which has put them in a tough spot).

The following is a player by player look at all of the players that the Bears have on their roster at both the defensive end and defensive tackle position.  There is a look back at the stats that they generated for 2010, a look at how their offseason might shape up and where they may end up in 2011.

DT-Anthony Adams-The Bears got some good production out of Adams last year as he played in all 16 games with 16 starts.  He had 37 total tackles with 33 solo and four assisted to go along with two sacks, one pass defended and two forced fumbles.

Adams may not exactly fit in the Bears scheme (which has called for lighter and faster defensive tackles in the past) he has been very effective and has helped give the Bears a big bodied player that can come in on any down and help against both the running game and the passing game.  Adams is also a good character guy and well liked by the team and coaching staff.

He will be a free agent this season and the Bears will try to do what they can to sign him and keep some stability on the defensive line, especially since it’s likely they won’t be bringing back Harris.  It will be important to keep some kind of continuity on the defensive line next year so keeping Adams will be something that they have to do.

DT-Tommie Harris-There has been a lot talk about Harris’ status for the 2011 season.  There are some that feel that he’s “lost it” and no longer has value to the team, while others feel that if he would be willing to take a pay cut he just might be worth keeping.  

In looking at reality however, due to the fact that his body has taken such a beating and the injuries that he has suffered have hampered his performance, it appears as if Harris may be much more of a liability than he is worth a lot of value when he is on the field.  Couple that with the fact that he has had some problems with the coaching staff and he starts to be a liability for the Bears.

Harris did play fair at times last season and helped the Bears out at some critical points in the season.  All together, Harris played in 15 games last season with six starts (he was inactive for one game last year) and recorded 13 total tackles with nine solo and four assisted.  He had one-and-a-half sacks and one pass defended.  Not very productive for this former Pro Bowler.

The Bears will try to make a decision on Harris quickly but it’s very likely that he isn’t going to be around when the season begins.  Chicago will look for some help at the position during the offseason and try to fill in Harris’ spot.

DT-Marcus Harrison-Harrison ended up being somewhat of a mystery player for the Bears last season.  It appeared as if he could be a fringe player when the Bears started to iron out their final roster at the end of training camp but he stuck with the team and did play a little bit in very limited action this season.

All together, Harrison played in just five games with no starts and had three total tackles (all solo) and one pass defended.  The Bears coaching staff may choose to see how well Harrison does this offseason and how he comes to training camp (he’s had problems coming to camp overweight) and check his motivation to see if they want to keep him around for another season.  

The need for depth may dictate that they keep him around but if they find someone else to add some depth to the defensive line then Harrison may be the next to go after Harris.

DE-Israel Idonije-After spending most of his career flipping between defensive tackle and defensive end, Idonije finally got settled in at the end position and had a pretty good season there.  Idonije played in all 16 games with 15 starts.  He had 49 total tackles with 33 solo and 16 assisted.  He also had eight sacks, three passes defended and three forced fumbles.

Thanks to the addition of Julius Peppers, Idonije was allowed to “take off” a bit and be pretty productive opposite the side that Peppers played on.  Idonije is effective and he’s signed for a couple more years so the Bears are sure to keep him starting on the opposite side of Peppers.

Look for there to be no question as to whether or not Idonije will make the roster for the 2011 season.

DT-Henry Melton-After spending the previous season on injured reserve Melton was used often during the 2010 season and played pretty well for the most part.  He participated in all 16 games in 2010 with no starts.  He had a total of 16 tackles with 13 solo and three assisted.  Melton also collected two-and-a-half sacks, one pass defended and one forced fumble.

Melton is young and very capable but isn’t a long term answer as a starter at the defensive tackle position.  He’s very good in a rotation and can play well when called upon but he’s more of a relief player than anything else.  The Bears will keep him around for the 2011 season and quite possibly give him additional snaps to see how effective he is, so look for him to be part of the team next season.

DE-Julius Peppers-The Bears were criticized last season for spending so much money on one player in free agency, but as it turned out Peppers was very well worth the money that they spent on him.  Peppers ended up being the best player on defense for the Bears and his presence had a direct affect on their ability to win games in 2010.

Peppers played in and started in all 16 games for the Bears in 2010.  He recorded a total of 54 tackles with 43 solo and 11 assisted.  He had eight sacks, nine passes defended, one interception and three forced fumbles.

Peppers got a lot of attention last year including being named to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team and his value to the team can’t be underestimated.  This defense wouldn’t have done as well this season had they not had Peppers in the lineup.  

Chicago will look to deploy Peppers in some different ways next season as well as allow him to freelance (move from one side to the other as he pleases) which should keep both Peppers and the Bears defense playing well in 2011.

DT-Matt Toeaina-The Bears got a nice surprise last season thanks to the way that Toeaina played and the Bears rewarded him with a contract extension that will keep him with the team for the next few seasons.  All together, Toeaina played in all 16 games with ten starts.  He had 24 total tackles with 17 solo and seven assisted.  He got two sacks and two passes defended in the action that he saw last season.

Toeaina earned the start over Harris last season and proved to be much more valuable than Harris was when it was all said and done.  While he wasn’t that disruptive he was consistent and helped the Bears out defending against the run especially.  He will work well next season in a rotation and can be counted on to help keep the line solid and provide it with some depth.

The Bears will not let Toeaina go this offseason and will keep him around for 2011.  He’s a good talent and will help keep the defensive line stable next season.

DE-Corey Wootton-Wootton will forever be remembered as the guy who knocked Favre out of the Bears second game up in cold TCF Bank Stadium and may have brought any thoughts of a Favre comeback for next year to an end.  He did get some practical experience at the defensive end position and should get some additional time next year.

Wootton played in six games with no starts.  He had three tackles with two solo and one assisted and one sack (that Favre sack).  It was his rookie season and so he didn’t see much action for the Bears but should see some additional time on the field next season and be a contributor on defense in 2011.

The Bears are going to look for some depth on the defensive line this offseason because it’s likely that they will let Harris walk and will want to give their starters and veterans some backup help.  It’s not out of the question to think that the Bears will try to build some depth (or even add a starter) to their defensive line through the draft and could try for some help early on there.

Peppers was the biggest catalyst on the defensive line and on the entire defense for that matter and will be looked upon to help keep that side of the ball running well next season.  Idonije should continue to feed off of what Peppers does but for how long?  Will Wootton see more playing time in 2011?

The Bears will bring in some help at the defensive tackle position which means that Harris is a goner.  The other guy that could be on the bubble is Harrison.  If he doesn’t show up to camp in shape and ready to play he probably won’t be around in 2010.


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