Today we take a look at the DE position in our roster projection series and see where they will project on the official depth chart opening week.
Active DEs on the roster:
- Chauncey Davis - 8th-year veteran
- Thaddeus Gibson - 2nd-year player
- Israel Idonije - 9th-year veteran
- Cheta Ozougwu - 2nd-year player
- Julius Peppers - 11th-year veteran
- Corey Wootton - 3rd-year player
Projected RDE starter: Julius Peppers
Even though Peppers saw a lot of double teams with no pass rush compliment at the other DE position, he still managed 11 sacks and 37 tackles for loss. Keep in mind that Peppers did this on a bad knee. Peppers comes into camp completely healthy, which is a great sign, because if the Bears want to win the Super Bowl this year, the pass rush has to improve, and that starts with one of the best the League has to offer.
Going into his 3rd year in a Bears uniform, expect the Bears to continue giving Peppers the freedom to move around along the line in order to find mismatches.
Projected LDE starter: Israel Idonije
Idonije had a down season last year from a pass rush perspective. After tallying 8 sacks in 2010, Izzy managed to only bring down the QB 5 times. Izzy has come out this summer and stated that he was “banged up” last season which contributed to his low production. Despite the low production, I expect Izzy to come out of camp the starter at LDE.
However, Idonije was brought back on a 1-year deal, and with the Bears using a 1st round pick on Shea McClellin, and the emergence of 3rd-year player Wootton this summer, it is fair to assume that Idonije will be on a short leash throughout the season.
Projected situational pass rusher: Shea McClellin
It’s been a rough start to camp for the 1st round pick, who has struggled in pass rush drills. In my opinion, it is way too early to jump to conclusions on a first round pick who hasn’t played in a live game yet. What’s encouraging is that the former Boise State LB has shown the speed, quickness, and athleticism that Emery was looking for to compliment Julius Peppers in the pass rush.
I see the Bears using McClellin’s strengths and giving him the role of situational pass rusher. He will most likely need another off-season with conditioning coach Rusty Jones and DC Rod Marinelli to build up more strength and develop his run defense.
Reserve DE: Corey Wootton
Rewinding back to last summer, reports out of Bears camp described Wootton as being impressive, and indications were that he was going to be a major contributor on the defensive line. A knee injury and a broken hand later, Wootton is now on the bubble this year, fighting for a roster spot with veteran Chauncey Davis.
The good news is that this year Wootton is once again having a good camp and seems to have his quickness and explosiveness back. It couldn’t come at a better time for Wootton with the 1st round pick currently struggling and Idonije’s short leash. It wouldn’t surprise me if Wootton is able to either make his way into the starting line-up or jump ahead of Shea in the DE rotation.
Overall analysis on DEs:
Outside of Julius Peppers, there are question marks at this position. Idonije is more than likely going to start the season as the starter at LDE, but after a lackluster production last year, the arrow might be pointing down for him. Wootton always had the talent, but it’s a matter of health with him, and based on the past, you can’t really depend on him to be healthy throughout the season.
That’s where it all comes back to this year’s first round draft pick Shea McClellin. I refuse to be one of those fans who project McClellin’s 2012 season and career on a handful of full padded training camp practices. I choose to wait until actual games are played, and hopefully when that time has come, McClellin can give the Bears another explosive athlete at the DE position to terrorize QBs.
There is potential with this group; Izzy could more than likely bounce back from a poor season, Wootton could possibly stay healthy this season and be a contributor in the passing game, and Shea could live up to his first round status. The Bears will need one of these guys to capitalize off the double teams Peppers will get this year.
Current Standing: Above average