It hasn't played out that way, with the group struggling to hold its own, coming up short in the pass rush and also getting gouged frequently in the run game.
And now, injuries are taking their toll.
Defensive end Julius Peppers suffered a sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his right knee vs. the Lions, and his mobility was clearly affected. He might be able to play against the Vikings Sunday night, but he won't be 100 percent.
Nose tackle Matt Toeaina, who has started all five games, suffered a sprained PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in the fourth quarter and is expected to miss the next two games. That would move Anthony Adams into the starting lineup. He started all 16 games last season.
Defensive end Corey Wootton, who was expected to be a valuable backup this season, missed the first three games recovering from a knee scope, played in one game and then missed last week with a hand injury. He might be able to play Sunday.
"Julius Peppers' knee is still sore," coach Lovie Smith said. "I don't know exactly when he'll be able to go, but hopefully by Friday he'll be able to do some things and be able to go this weekend."
Chances are second-round pick Stephen Paea will see his first playing time vs. the Vikings. He has been inactive every week.
"There's a rotation you go through," Smith said. "Sometimes it's hard for you to get an opportunity. Stephen has to just continue to do what he's been doing: going to work, practice, improving. He'll get his opportunity. We're still as high on him, as we have been. It's just that there's been other guys before him."