The game of football is won up front with the big boys in the trenches, which explains why the Monsters of the Midway struggled so badly in 2007 despite a solid supply of skill-position talent.
The offensive line was criticized all year for not opening up running lanes consistently and failing to provide adequate pass protection, but the defensive interior was also a liability. While Tommie Harris may have been voted to his third straight Pro Bowl, he got there on reputation alone once he sprained his knee in Week 3. Dusty Dvoracek looked great in the early going after missing all of 2006 with a foot injury, until he tore his ACL in the season-opener and headed back to injured reserve. Darwin Walker did not live up to expectations after being acquired during training camp, although free-agent addition Anthony Adams did play well before being placed on IR alongside Dvoracek and fellow DT Antonio Garay. Swingman Israel Idonije was forced to play inside exclusively, and both Jimmy Kennedy and Matt Toeaina were added midseason out of pure necessity.
Harris and Dvoracek will open 2008 as the starters and should both be completely healed once the offseason program begins, but the depth behind them is a serious question mark.
Walker is due a $5.2 million roster bonus and most likely will not be back. Adams is a quality run-stuffer but can't get after the quarterback. Garay has never lived up to his lofty talent. Idonije is a better fit at defensive end. Toeaina impressed during his limited snaps, while Kennedy did not.
GM Jerry Angelo can not afford to spend a high draft pick this April on the defensive line because of greater needs elsewhere, but finding a second-day bargain could help solve a potential problem.
Scout.com is reporting that the Bears have had lengthy discussions during Senior Bowl workouts with North Carolina State defensive tackle DeMario Pressley.
DT DeMario Pressley
Karl DeBlakey/AP Images
Pressley (6-3, 295) possesses excellent athleticism with good speed and quickness. He can chase down tacklers from the backside and pursues the football well. He's quite adept at shedding blocks at the line of scrimmage and can penetrate the backfield in a hurry. Still somewhat raw, he has a lot of upside and could develop into a fine tackle. And he knows what it takes to make it at the next level, having played alongside the likes of Mario Williams, Manny Lawson, and Tank Tyler.Durability will be a concern for Pressley, who dealt with wrist, toe, and knee injuries while with the Wolfpack. Since he doesn't have ideal size, he can be pushed around and swallowed up by stronger offensive linemen. While he was a solid contributor for four seasons, he never seemed to take the next step and didn't have the kind of breakout senior season that many scouts were expecting. Lovie Smith prefers quicker defensive tackles who can fill gaps and get after the quarterback, and while Pressley – he's probably a third- or fourth-rounder – has some traits the Bears are looking for, he is still considered a project.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.