Bears Defensive Line Decisions

The final defensive line rotation for the Bears is still unclear. A heavy cluster of players are competing at defensive tackle and the fourth defensive end spot is still up for grabs.

It was obvious from his first practice that defensive end Vernon Gholston was no different a player than he was in New York. He was the Jets' first-round pick in 2008, yet in three seasons never earned a sack.

He was released and subsequently scooped up by the Chicago Bears. It was believed that switching from New York's 3-4 defense to Chicago's 4-3 might be the key to a career resurgence. Instead, Gholston again demonstrated the traits that have made him a first-round bust.

He did not show the quickness that earned him All-American honors at Ohio State and never was able to get off his blocks. His main move when getting after the quarterback was a bull rush. He played poorly in the preseason games, showing an inability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and getting eaten up in the run game.


DE Mario Addison
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Gholston's release has swung the door wide open for the team's fourth and final defensive end position. When he returns from injury, most likely within the next few weeks, Corey Wootton will serve as the primary backup to Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers. Yet the Bears like to rotate a lot of guys along the defensive line, so the fourth end will see time on the field.

The competition for that final spot is currently underway between rookies Mario Addison and Jake Laptad, as well as veteran Nick Reed. Addison has the lead as of now and has been very impressive at times. He's quick off the ball and has a nice spin move. He'll sometimes get swallowed up once the offensive lineman locks on and can disappear in the run game. If he can show some consistency on Thursday he'll most likely end up the big winner.

Reed has been very good at times as well but just doesn't show enough power to be able to defend well against the run. He does has quick feet and hands when getting after the quarterback and could be useful as a situational third-down rusher. Laptad hasn't been overly impressive and is still in the learning stages. He has shown potential though and could earn a spot on the practice squad.

Pay attention on Thursday to see if any of these players stand out, good or bad. It will go a long way toward deciding which one stays with the team.

While the defensive end position has thinned out, there still remains a logjam of players at defensive tackle. Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina have played very well and could be the opening-day starters. Anthony Adams has been dealing with a calf injury for weeks now and it's anyone's guess when he'll return. A roster spot is waiting for him though when he does.

Amobi Okoye is the only defensive lineman who has earned a sack this preseason, and he has three of them. It looks like he has secured a roster spot, although a good game Thursday will solidify his case.

The Bears will keep either eight or nine defensive linemen. It's likely they will go with nine due to Adams' injury. That leaves a spot open for either Stephen Paea or Marcus Harrison. Paea has not stood out at all and has not earned a roster spot in my mind. Yet he was a second-round pick in this year's draft. The Bears moved up to grab him, trading away a fourth-round pick in the process. So it's unlikely the team will give up on him this early. Which gives him the edge over Harrison, who came into camp overweight. Based on pure effort and production though, Harrison has outplayed Paea.

Rookie Jordan Miller has been nothing more than a camp body and has no real shot at earning a roster spot.

After the starters have left the game against the Cleveland Browns, focus on the trenches where the team's final few roster spots will be decided.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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