Can the Chicago Bears defensive line be saved in 2023?

By Bill Zimmerman

on March 18, 2023 8:00 am

When it came to the 2022 Chicago Bears offensive line, yes, they had pass-blocking issues, but at least they could hang their hat on being a very solid run-blocking unit.

The 2022 line of defense didn’t really have anything to show for it. They struggled in almost every aspect of the game and it was clear this unit needed a lot of work in the offseason.

The bears have significant holes everywhere. They needed to strengthen the wide receiver group, they needed significant help on both offense and defense, they needed a running back to replace David Montgomery, a solid backup for Cole Kmet, another cornerback and two new linebackers. It was quite a long list and Poland crossed some of these needs off the list.

Unfortunately, the offensive and defensive lines still have the most question marks at this point. The offensive line at least has opportunities to be a decent unit this year, but at this point the defensive line could be destined to have significant problems again in 2023.

Before you run to the comments, yes the device has already improved over the 2022 version, I’m not saying it will be that bad. But let’s say you’re a kid and you have to be 60 inches tall to ride a roller coaster. You are entering the year 2022 and you are 53 inches tall. They are coming back next summer 2023 and are 57 inches tall. You’ve grown 4 inches in a year which is impressive but you’re still way short of the requirement but with more growth you’ll be there in 2024. That’s where the bears’ line of defense is.

When I spoke to someone about the line of defense, they asked me what I thought of Andrew Billings. I like the Billings signature. I think he’s a solid player and will be the 1 tech on the line. He’s a solid starter in this league. But I have a feeling Billings is ideally the least talented starter on a quality defensive line. At the moment I think he’s the best defender on the team.

The other major addition was Demarcus Walker. I loved Walker when he came from the state of Florida. I felt like the Denver Broncos got a steal in the second round, but Walker never prevailed in Denver. He had a career year last year and I’m excited to see if his career growth continues in Chicago. Walker has the versatility to play both indoors and outdoors, and while that doesn’t mean much, the Bears officially called him a defensive end.

As it stands now, the Bears’ defensive front consists of Billings and Justin Jones in the middle, with Walker and Trevis Gipson coming in from the edge. This is clearly lacking in the talent department.

I expect Ryan Poles to sign another edge player and that will no doubt help, but not much left from the outside, certainly not game changers.

Of course we can get to the draft, and I’m pretty sure the Poles will attack the defensive line at some point with those 53-64 picks. Cornerback, edge and defensive tackle. Since these are five different positions, that won’t happen unless the Poles act back. With these four picks, would the Poles go with 2 offensive linemen and 2 defensive linemen? If he can still secure a starting corner before the draft, that would certainly be ideal.

Some of you might suggest the Bears attack the defensive line with Jalen Carter or Lukas Van Ness in round one, but that would leave the Poles looking at tackle in round two. I know the Poles found a rookie starter in round five in Braxton Jones, and as impressive as that is, you just don’t know if an offensive tackle, even one that was drafted as high as round two, from the can jump in and start on the first day. It’s a dangerous way to protect Justin Fields.

I wouldn’t expect a late second round defensive tackle or edge player to have a breakout rookie season, they usually progress a bit slower, but a few quality second round players rotating with these players would certainly help.

Even with another advantage and a couple of picks in the second round, I still wouldn’t see this defensive line reaching a league average level. The Bears will most likely have trouble putting pressure back on the quarterback.

Perhaps the Poles can snag a surprise veteran release or shock us with a trade that could significantly alter the line of defense’s prospects, but unless we see something that dramatic in the next few months, there’s a good chance a group will have problems mid-season.

Currently, the defensive line is becoming the weakest positional group in the 2023 Chicago Bears.

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