DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Adewale Ogunleye, LT Tommie Harris, RT Ian Scott, RE Alex Brown. Backups -- T Tank Johnson, E-T Israel Idonije, T Alfonso Boone, T Dusty Dvoracek, E-T Michael Haynes, E Mark Anderson.
Like every NFL team, the Bears could use another big-time pass rusher, but otherwise it's a deep and talented group. Ogunleye had 10 sacks, while Brown had six. Both were Pro Bowl alternates. Haynes, the 14th overall pick in 2003, fell behind free agent Idonije on the depth chart and could be moved to tackle or become a utility player. Idonije can play inside or outside and has shown potential and enough athleticism to be effective on special teams. Inside, Harris made his first Pro Bowl and is a disruptive force capable of beating double teams with quickness at the three technique. Scott does the dirty work and is a solid run stuffer. Johnson (five sacks) and Boone play in the four-man tackle rotation as backups, and Johnson is effective in the nickel package. Rookie Dvoracek, a third-rounder, could play a key role if Johnson's torn hamstring isn't completely healed by training camp. Anderson is strictly an extra pass rusher at this point.
Urlacher went back to Hawaii for the fifth time after a one-year hiatus. He gives the Bears another pass rusher and makes highlight plays sideline to sideline. Briggs had 170 tackles, one less than Urlacher, and he's in a contract year unless the Bears unexpectedly get him re-signed before the end of the season. Briggs is almost as active as Urlacher but doesn't make as many big plays. On the strong side, smart and steady Hillenmeyer has become a solid starter, although he comes off the field in passing situations. There isn't much depth, but fourth-rounder Williams has the versatility to play all three positions.
Vasher went to the Pro Bowl on the strength of eight interceptions and 145 return yards. But big, physical Tillman was inconsistent for the second straight year. They are a complementary couple because Vasher is undersized but a great ball athlete, while Tillman can match up with the biggest wideouts. The secondary was torched by Steve Smith in the playoff loss, giving the group something to prove this season. The group is better and deeper with the addition of restricted free agent Manning Jr., who got a five-year deal worth as much as $21 million to fill the void at nickel corner left by Jerry Azumah's retirement. Manning is an upgrade who could start in a pinch. When the tough, heady Brown is healthy, the Bears' defense plays much better as a whole because he quarterbacks the secondary. But he's missed 18 starts in the past two seasons. Harris played well for a sixth-round pick as a rookie in '05, but he could be replaced by Danieal Manning, who was chosen 42nd overall and has impressive talent but is raw.