Harris was coming off three straight appearances in the Pro Bowl and signed a $40 million extension in the offseason to become the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league, although he had been dealing with knee and hamstring injuries each of the last two seasons and hadn't looked like his dominant self in a while. But the former first-round draft pick was curiously absent from the stat sheet the first half of the season, and he was suspended for a ballgame by Smith for repeated tardiness and apparently not being very diligent about getting treatment for his injuries. Harris did play much better during the second half of the schedule, even though a strong case can be made that Israel Idonije was a more consistent force at the three technique more often than not.
Over at nose tackle, Dusty Dvoracek was strong early, tired down the stretch, and eventually moved to injured reserve for the third time in three professional seasons, opening up the door for the underappreciated Anthony Adams, who probably should have been in the starting lineup from Day 1.
Inside the Numbers
It may be time to cut ties with Dvoracek even though he is a fan favorite, as he isn't helping the Bears win football games sitting on the trainer's table and won't cost the team much as a salary-cap casualty. Adams is a better player anyway, providing a sturdy anchor against the run and occupying enemy blockers so the linebackers behind him can be freed up to make plays. It's reasonable to expect both Idonije and Harrison to be even stronger this coming season, especially the 6-3, 317-pound Harrison since he showed first-round ability coming out of Arkansas but slipped badly in the draft because of some character concerns.
But the key up front always has been and always will be Harris because he will take the defensive tackle rotation as far as it can go, although expectations may have to be lowered for him if there's still talk about his achy knees and hamstrings come training camp.
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.
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