Dominoes Falling After Dusty Injury

Not that this should be surprising news for fans of the Chicago Bears, but Dusty Dvoracek ripped his ACL Saturday and is once again gone for the year. His absence will create a ripple effect before final cuts are made, but these five players in particular are most affected. The envelope, please ...

Jarron Gilbert

The Monsters of the Midway used their top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on Gilbert in part because of his versatility along the defensive line, but the inevitable absence of Dusty Dvoracek cements him as a three-technique tackle and nothing more as a rookie. The former San Jose State Spartan enjoyed a productive training camp in Bourbonnais and has gotten a lot of snaps in the first two preseason games, so look for him to be featured as a part of the D-line rotation in the third – and most important – exhibition game Sunday at Denver.

Tommie Harris was effective Saturday against the Giants and will always command a ton of attention when he is on the field, but the three-time Pro Bowler can't handle 50 per game anymore because his fragile knee simply won't allow it.


Harrison is in line to be a starter at nose tackle.
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Marcus Harrison

Dvoracek has been the usual starter at nose tackle each of the last two seasons before being shelved on injured reserve, so expect Marcus Harrison to emerge from the preseason atop the depth chart alongside Harris. The second-year pro out of Arkansas offers more pass-rush possibilities than Dvoracek ever did – he played some three technique as a rookie – yet is still a mountain of a man for the opposing offensive line to move around in the running game.

After reporting to training camp about 15 pounds overweight and landing on the non-football injury list as punishment, Harrison has two tackles, a sack and a pass defensed through two preseason contests.

Israel Idonije

Much was made about the coaching staff asking Idonije to drop 40 pounds – from around 305 to about 265 – to prepare him for a switch back to D-end from D-tackle, and the veteran obliged, but he has still spent most of his time inside because he's best suited to substitute for Harris at the three-technique position. With Dvoracek once again sidelined for the season, the depth chart simply won't allow Idonije to get any snaps outside because this version of the Cover 2 necessitates liberal rotation at both tackle spots.

The one-time practice squader is going to be one of the lightest tackles in the league after shedding all that extra weight, but Idonije prefers his leaner-and-meaner body and believes he'll be a better player as a result.


Melton now has better odds to make the roster.
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Henry Melton

Despite the glaring fact that he was a fourth-round draft pick this past April, Melton didn't even get an invite to the Scouting Combine and only started to get noticed by NFL teams after putting together an impressive performance at his Pro Day. The former Texas Longhorn is still incredibly raw and got the majority of his reps in training camp with the third stringers, meaning he had little chance of making the final 53-man roster before Dvoracek's injury – he would likely be snatched up by another ballclub if the Bears tried to send him through waivers and stash him on the practice squad.

However, Dvoracek's torn ACL means there is one more spot available for the big club in 2009, so this might be the excuse needed to keep Melton around for the long haul.

Matt Toeaina

The Monsters of the Midway would prefer to keep Melton because of his upside, especially with both Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson headed for free agency after this season, but the player most likely to take Dvoracek's roster spot is Toeaina. Picked up off the Cincinnati practice squad following a rash of injuries up front in 2007, Toeaina made some plays when given the opportunity and stuck around in '08 as a result – even if he was inactive for 15 of 16 games.

Not only does he get most of his action at nose tackle, which is the same position Dvoracek played, but Toeaina is the kind of light-and-quick D-lineman coach Lovie Smith prefers in the trenches.


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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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