Void in the middle

Two years ago the mammoth duo of Keith Traylor and Ted Washington were credited with being the key to the Bears defense being among the best in the game. My have times have changed.

During a 13-3 campaign one of the most memorable moments came on an interception return by Keith Traylor in the season finale against Jacksonville. The linebacker turned defensive tackle picked off a ball he deflected and then turned up field. As he rumbled forward running out of gas he looked to lateral the ball, but when no one obliged he continued up field coming up yards short of the end zone.

The Bears defense ranked second against the run in 2001 and most of that credit goes to Traylor and Ted Washington. They took on double-teams allowing Brian Urlacher to patrol the field uninhibited. The unit also gave up the fewest points in the league that season.

When Chicago started the following year 2-0 things seemed to be good again for the Bears, but Washington went down with foot and ankle injuries and would not to play for the team again. Washington was traded to the New England Patriots before the start of the 2003 season because the Bears felt they had enough depth at the position and also in part there was a theory he wasn't believed to be completely healthy after missing the final 14 games of the season.

Traylor was responsible for clogging up the middle of the line in both 2002 and 2003, while struggling with an arthritic knee. The 12-year veteran did his best, but at 34 it looks like the Bears will move in a new direction.

Left tackle is the Bears first priority in the offseason with defensive tackle being a close second. The team will address one of the positions in the draft and the other in free agency.

Warren Sapp is expected to be on the free agent market and has ties to GM Jerry Angelo from their time in Tampa Bay. There is a general feeling that Sapp is also past his prime, but Angelo might be willing to take a chance on the 7-time Pro Bowler.

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