Projected starter: Anthony Adams
Despite signing him as a free agent before the beginning of the 2007 campaign, the Bears never gave Adams much of a chance to stick in the starting lineup and always found a way to justify going with Dusty Dvoracek or Darwin Walker. But Dvoracek is now mercifully an ex-Bear after suiting up for just 13 of 64 contests in four seasons due to injuries, plus Walker turned out to be one of the biggest 295-pound softies in recent memory, so the starting job finally appears to be Adams' to keep. Although he's not a 350-pound behemoth capable of swallowing two offensive linemen whole on every play, he is a reliable run defender and brings a ton of high-on-sugar energy to the huddle.
Projected backups: Marcus Harrison, Matt Toeaina
A third-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Harrison came to Chicago with first-round pedigree and looked like he could be a real bargain after getting his first career sack in his first career game – in an on-the-road upset of Peyton Manning and the Colts, no less. But the generously-listed-at-310-pounds former Arkansas Razorback showed up to training camp fat and out of shape this past summer, earning himself a trip to the non-football injury list, and then he missed a lot of the offseason program battling an illness. If he isn't ready to step it up a notch in 2010, an unheralded hard worker like Toeaina might be able to steal some of Harrison's snaps.
Adams started eight of 16 games last season and recorded 44 sacks, 2.0 sacks and one pass defensed, with each category being the best he has ever done in a Bears uniform. The departed Alex Brown was the only other defensive lineman to register more tackles (48), although Adams nearly doubled the total of three-technique tackle Tommie Harris (24). Adams didn't get a lot of help defending the run, unfortunately, as the Monsters of the Midway finished 23rd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (126.4), and the fact that teams ran the ball at them a total of 467 times – tied for seventh most in the NFL – proves two key points: The Bears were vulnerable against the run, and they were behind a lot.
For the first time since he has been in the Windy City, Adams is the unquestioned starter and doesn't appear to have a lot of competition as he heads to Bourbonnais next week. While Harrison is built like a nose tackle and needs to start engineering his game accordingly, he still fancies himself as a pass rusher and prefers to play the three-technique position. The Bears are banking on the addition of Julius Peppers being the transaction that makes their entire defensive line relevant again, but Adams would benefit more if the oft-injured Harris returns to the form that made him a Pro Bowler from 2005-07.
DT Anthony Adams
I'd much rather have ...
Brodrick Bunkley in Philadelphia. At 6-2 and 306 pounds, Bunkley is the kind of lean-and-mean nose tackle Bears coach Lovie Smith likes to see in his defense. Adams, on the other hand, probably had a tough time getting into the rotation on a regular basis because he's more of a bowling ball and doesn't offer much in terms of his pass rush. But not only does Bunkley know how to maintain position and use leverage to his advantage, but he doesn't need to come off the field in passing situations – he has a quick first step.
But he's better than ...
Fred Robbins in St. Louis. Because he played his previous six seasons with the Giants, Robbins is going to learn that life is very hard on the inside when you don't have Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka wreaking havoc on the outside. Chris Long may have been the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft but hasn't lived up to the hype, plus nobody outside of the Rams organization has ever heard of Victor Adeyanju since he has 3.0 sacks in 53 career games. Robbins will line up next to another nobody at tackle in Clifton Ryan.
Confidence-o-Meter: 5.7 *
The Bears are going to get the best Adams has to offer each and every Sunday, which is more than they can say for the disappointing Harrison. Dvoracek may have been a fan favorite and actually somewhat effective when on the field, but the front office didn't even tender him a contract as a restricted free agent during the offseason and the former third rounder remains out of football. While Adams is limited in his abilities and isn't the kind of defender enemy offensive coordinators need to game-plan for, he accepts his duties as a role player and has the type of fun-loving personality on game day that teammates love.
* Much like Ron Swanson from "Parks and Recreation" came up with a scientifically perfect 10-point scale for human beauty, JC has done the same with confidence in nose tackles. 10.0 is Shaun Rogers before he ate all the barbecue in Texas.
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.