It's not a stretch to say the Bears' success this season will depend greatly on the play of the defensive line.
Left to right, Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Ian Scott and Alex Brown are being counted on as the cornerstone of the defense, and the defense is being counted on to carry the team. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera says the line is capable of great things as a group, but it still has a lot to prove.
"What we've seen are flashes," Rivera said. "We haven't seen it for a whole game. Have we seen glimpses? Absolutely. Is it cause to be excited? Absolutely."
The Bears were No. 12 in preseason points allowed and No. 3 in rushing yards permitted, and it started up front. Last season they were No. 25 in rushing yards allowed.
"I'm pretty excited about the fact that we've got some guys who have really developed," Rivera said. "You go back and compare them from last year 'til now, the development to me has been great. There's still a good ways to go; I still think a lot of our young guys have some growing to do. But that's the exciting part. The potential of this defense can be staggering if we can stay healthy and we can get off to a fast start."
The Redskins present the ideal opportunity. Their offense ranked 30th last season in total yards, 29th in passing yards and 31st in points.
Somewhat lost in all the focus on whether quarterback Patrick Ramsey can finally consistently get the job done for the Redskins is how new receivers Santana Moss and David Patten will perform beginning in Sunday's opener against a tough Chicago defense.
Patten, 31, led the Redskins in preseason with eight catches for 157 yards, including a 46-yarder against Cincinnati, However, the former New England wideout he has only caught more than 44 passes in two of his eight seasons.
Moss had five catches for 97 yards this summer, including a 40-yarder in which he gained 24 yards after the grab. At 26, Moss has more upside than Patten, but he dropped from 74 catches in 2003, when he became a starter for the New York Jets, to 45 last season.
Washington coach Joe Gibbs defends the moves to the faster but smaller Patten and Moss because, unlike Coles and Gardner, they want to be Redskins, and because they make big plays.
Indeed, Moss (18.6 yards per catch) and Patten (18.2) were second and third in average yards per catch among NFL receivers with at least 35 receptions in 2004, and both continued to get deep in preseason. Patten (19.6) edged Moss (19.4) in yards per catch.
Ramsey is still struggling with adjusting to the speed of his new receivers, and their production will probably be more quality than quantity compared to their predecessors. But after Coles and Gardner combined for only five catches of more than 30 yards in 2004, the Redskins are dying for some of that quality.