The Bears, going into last season, had decent depth at the DT position. This season, however, you can’t really say the same thing. The Bears acquired Amobi Okoye last summer to help with starter Henry Melton in the 3-technique rotation, but lost him to the Bucs this off-season. Right now, the Bears’ starters at the 3-technique DT and NT positions are Melton and Matt Toeaina.
Henry Melton came off a solid season for the Bears last year. Melton ranked 7th in Pro Football Focus DT pass rush rankings with 39 total pressures, 7.3 pass rush productivity average off 424 pass rush snaps. Toeaina became the full-time starter at NT after some shaky games from former Bears Anthony Adams, and he played the position well.
Behind those two guys are some veterans and young guys with question marks. Stephen Paea showed flashes in some games last year, but will need to show the coaches and front office some consistency in his 2nd year. What you want out of your high 2nd round pick by the end of training camp is for him to be the team’s starting NT. Toeaina is a serviceable player, but Paea is the more talented player of the two and needs to play up to his draft status in his 2nd year.
John McCargo was highly regarded coming into the 2006 draft by former Bills G.M. Marv Levy; so much so that he traded into the 1st round for the DT when he was projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. McCargo is an explosive athlete for the 3-tech. position, but there’s a reason why he started a total of one game going into his 7th season in the league.
The young guys, UDFA Ronnie Cameron and last year UDFA Jordan Miller are two guys who might be more talented than veteran pick-ups McCargo and Demario Pressely, but they lack the game experience the two vets have. Cameron is a pure 3-tech. in the Tampa-2 system because of his quickness off the snap and because he gets through his gap and make plays in the backfield.
Miller seems more suited at NT in the Tampa-2, but he’s another explosive athlete at the DT position. He has a good blend of strength and power that could make him a good NT in this league someday.
Looking at the DT depth chart as it is currently constructed; G.M. Phil Emery looks to be rolling the dice on young players (exception of McCargo and Pressley) with high ceilings. It’s a different approach from former G.M. Jerry Angelo who had established vets in Okoye and Adams behind starters Melton and Paea last year.
This group quite possibly can perform up to their potential and strengthen the depth at the position, or they can falter and leave the coaching staff scrambling around for solutions. Either way, it is a position to keep a close eye on throughout the 2012 season.