Positional Overview: Defensive Line

Heading into the 2004 campaign, the front four was a huge question mark. However, hitting on a first round pick and trading for a Pro Bowl defensive end can quickly turn things around, which is exactly what the Bears were able to do.

The selection of Tommie Harris started the rebuilding project on an aging defensive line. Cutting veterans like Phillip Daniels and Bryan Robinson gave the influx of new talent a chance to play.

The final piece came in August, when GM Jerry Angelo traded the team's best receiver for Adewale Ogunleye. There's no doubt the offense missed Marty Booker, but adding the '03 AFC sack leader proved too tempting.

Alex Brown was the only returning starter. For the second straight season he led the team in sacks, this time with 6.5, including a four-sack performance against the New York Giants that convinced the Bears to give him a five-year contract extension.

Harris looks to have a trip to Hawaii in his future. The Bears believe he should have been Defensive Rookie of the Year. Despite having just 3.5 sacks, he consistently disrupted plays in the backfield thanks to his lightning quick speed for a 300-pound man.

The surprise of the group came from Ian Scott. While he looked to be among the final cuts as the team trimmed to the roster to 53, the Bears kept him around and he was starting by the fourth game. He never left the lineup and his 77 tackles were the most among defensive linemen.

Ogunleye battled injuries for much of the season, which became a bone of contention with the coaching staff. There was some feeling he wasn't playing through pain, but an ankle injury that landed him on Injured Reserve did require surgery.

The Bears expect much more than 5.5 sacks for the six-year $33.4 million contract Ogunleye received upon being traded to Chicago.

The depth behind the starters makes the defensive line among the strongest components of the team.

Although former first round pick Michael Haynes will not be a starter with Brown and Ogunleye ahead of him, he can play both end spots and if necessary, he has the ability to move inside.

Terry Johnson didn't have an impressive rookie season after being selected by the Bears in the second round. Often young defensive tackles initially have a tough time adjusting to the speed and size of the interior offensive linemen at the NFL level. Thus was the case with Scott, as he became an effective player in his second full season.

The Bears are hoping the same holds true for Johnson and he will be reliable part of the DT rotation.

At 29, Alfonso Boone is the elder statesman of the group. He has the bulk to be a solid run stuffer and on occasion can get to the quarterback. His three sacks were good enough for fifth on the team.

Israel Idonije is a versatile backup that can play both end and tackle, a valuable commodity to have on game day.

The Bears defensive line accounted for 24 of the team's 35 sacks last year. The '03 defense had just 18 total sacks and 12 by the front four.

The group has the potential to improve with another year's experience under the defensive scheme and could have at least one member represented in the Pro Bowl.

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