Bears positional analysis: Defensive linemen

Posted Feb. 28, 2011 @ 4:07 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

This is the sixth of position-by-position looks at the Bears' personnel entering the 2011 offseason. The series continues with an analysis of Chicago's DL situation.

Overview: DE Julius Peppers made only eight sacks in his first year with the Bears, but that number didn't tell the full story of his 2010 campaign. He was often dominant and almost always disruptive against the pass and the run. Peppers, who was named an All-Pro, drew frequent double-teams, which set up one-on-one matchups for his fellow D-linemen.

The pieces around Peppers could change this offseason, however.

The Bears already released DT Tommie Harris, and NT Anthony Adams, coming off a solid season, is due to become an unrestricted free agent.

Younger players like Henry Melton could get more involved, and while the Bears have pressing needs on the O-line, GM Jerry Angelo also might address the D-line in the draft, as he consistently has done during his time with the Bears. In eight of the nine drafts that Angelo has overseen in Chicago, he has used at least one pick on a D-lineman before the end of the fourth round. And the one year when he didn't draft a D-lineman, he traded a third-round pick to the Dolphins for DE Adewale Ogunleye.

Here's a breakdown of each of the defensive linemen on the roster:

Anthony Adams: The team would like to re-sign him. The Bears could be very young and inexperienced on the interior if Adams follows Harris out the door. Adams is a reliable piece in the base "D" and there is no clear replacement for him on the roster.

Marcus Harrison: Harrison, who had played in every game during his first two seasons, was only active in five games in 2010 and he didn't make much of an impact when he did suit up. Conditioning has been an issue for him and he has been a disappointment. The team probably will be ready to part ways with him if he doesn't step up in training camp.

Israel Idonije: He had the best season of his career playing defensive end opposite Peppers. Idonije moved back and forth from tackle to end and contributed on special teams for the previous six seasons while with the Bears. He settled in at end after splitting time with Mark Anderson, who was cut in early October, and tied for the team lead in sacks (eight) in his first year as a full-time starter. He's heading into his contract year.

Henry Melton: A fourth-round pick in '09, Melton is versatile and has great burst. He played tackle and end last season, showing promise. He could get a chance to win a starting job at tackle now that Harris has been released.

Julius Peppers: The Bears made the biggest splash in free agency last offseason, signing Peppers to a six-year deal that included $42 million guaranteed, and the team is pleased with its investment. Peppers, who has a rare blend of speed, size, power and athleticism, is 31 and should continue to dominate.

Matt Toeaina: An active, high-motor three-technique tackle, Toeaina started 10 games last season after playing in only five during his first three years of his career. Chicago signed him to a contract extension before the end of the season and he'll either start or be involved in a rotation at D-tackle.

Corey Wootton: Wootton, a fourth-round pick out of Northwestern, was inactive in 10 of the first 12 games before getting more involved in the final quarter of the season. His lone sack of the season was a memorable one — he knocked Brett Favre out in Week 15, and it could go down as Favre's last NFL snap. He needs to become more consistent to earn regular playing time.

Bottom line: There are question marks at the DT spot, and re-signing Adams is a priority. Angelo could be looking to add to the mix of players complementing Peppers at end in free agency or the draft.

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