Chicago Bears' Defense Still Needs Upgrades at DL, S

By Brian Neal
Chicago Bears Defense
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

While I sit here in my amazing dorm room — which happens to be located in my parent’s house (I’m a commuter, like a boss, I know) — and think about how the Chicago Bears have been so proactive this offseason making many moves I agree with and bolstering their two biggest positions of need, I can’t help but believe there’s still work to be done.

Heading into the free-agency period, there was no question that the most prominent areas of the team which needed addressing were the defensive line as a whole, as well as both safety positions. GM Phil Emery and company have essentially only looked at those positions in free agency (with a couple other small signings here and there such as Jordan Senn and Domenik Hixon) adding three safeties and six defensive linemen. Despite the activity, out of the nine players brought in, only a couple are truly solid, if not fantastic starters. Those two of course being DT Lamarr Houston and DE Jared Allen.

The rest of that bunch include safeties Danny McCray, M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy, as well as defensive linemen Israel Idonije, Willie Young, Trevor Scott and Austen Lane.

So, starting with the safety position, do they have any starting-caliber players on the roster? And if anyone reads that and says “Oh! What about Chris Conte?” Stop reading my article and go away because I hate you. (Just kidding, but seriously, he’s awful.) Other than perhaps Mundy, none of those guys have shown any type of promise or at least consistency on the back end. In fact, again, other than Mundy, the rest of the safeties on this roster will either be primarily special teamers this year or not even make the final 53-man roster.

That means the draft is going to be huge for finding at least one more talented safety, especially since the few good starters at the position who were available as FAs are now all gone — a trade is always a possibility, but not ideal.

Then, looking at DL, we obviously know that Houston will be starting at the three-tech spot, and Allen will be replacing Julius Peppers. But then who do the Bears have who can be a reliable starter? Young and Idonije will be solid rotational players, but I wouldn’t say either are good enough to start. Scott and Lane probably won’t make the cut. Other DEs currently under contract include Cornelius Washington, David Baas (who I’m a fan of) and Cheta Ozougwu — none of which have shown they can be starters in the NFL.

And at DT, Stephen Paea, Jeremiah Ratliff, Tracy Robertson and Nate Collins — a player who has looked promising, but is coming off a torn ACL — are the other options next to Houston. Ratliff may be good enough to start, but Paea and Collins are definitely better suited as rotational guys.

So basically, all three positions could really use another starting-caliber player. Problem is, none of them can be fixed with a remaining free agent which means they’ll have to do very well in the draft. They might be able to get away with not bringing in another DT, but they definitely need another DE, and I’d hope they take one in either the first or second round. And of course, safety is still a major concern and the other of their first two picks should certainly be a safety.

If they could, for instance, trade down in the first and pick up Calvin Pryor while acquiring another third- or fourth-round selection, that would be an ideal situation in the 2014 NFL Draft. Then in the second round, they should target ends such as Scott Crichton, Trent Murphy, Jackson Jeffcoat or any of the guys who fall in that range of the draft.

Assuming a scenario such as that is possible, that would certainly be the best situation which would shore up those areas, as LB and CB should be strong enough this year barring multiple injuries. Suddenly, the Bears would have a balanced defense once more with sufficient talent and playmakers at each position to put them back in the top half of the league.

Couple that with an even more potent offense, and the Bears are more than likely NFC North favorites heading into 2014.

Brian Neal is an NFL and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.

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