Predicting the Bears Opening Week Roster: Defense
Stephen Sylvanie - USA Today Sports

Predicting the Bears Opening Week Roster: Defense

by - Senior Writer -

Monday, we discussed what the Bears roster might look like come week one on the offensive side, and you must admit it is an exciting roster. Not only is the offensive side loaded with speed at virtually every position, but they have plenty of young talent and are eager to take that next step as a unit.

Now comes the hard part, which is getting to that next step as Luke Getsy will have a challenge in front of him this season to get these players to buy into his system and live up to their potential. However, the offense wasn't the issue when you look back at last season. The defense was the problem, which is shocking when you look at who runs the show.

Matt Eberflus has been a defensive coach for nearly three decades in the NFL, with Alan Williams spending a ton of time as an assistant on defense. Both were brought in to create a toughness factor, which was nowhere to be found last year. If the Bears want to get back to being taken seriously, they need to improve on defense, and this could be the season they showcase that.

It is hard to fathom a Bears team being ranked near the bottom defensively, but that is where this team was a season ago. That is what happens when you trade away your five best guys within 12 months of one another, as this defense was a shell of its former self last year.

However, given what Ryan Poles did on that side of the ball this year, significant improvements should be coming, and this is what the roster could look like in week one.

EDGE Rusher (4): Trevis Gipson, DeMarcus Walker, Dominique Robinson, and Rasheem Green

Gone are the days of having Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn rush the QB, as those were the Bears primary pass rushers. When you look at the Bear's defense as a whole, this is still the most significant area of concern, as they have a lot of work to do and haven't done much to address it. Trevis Gipson will be the focal point on the Edge, as he is the teams returning sack leader after posting six last year.

Apart from him, the Bears need to figure out where that pressure will come from, or it could be more of the same from last year. DeMarcus Walker and Dominique Robinson are expected to get plenty of playing time to pair with Gipson, while Rasheem Green could be a wild card depending on how he fares in camp.

Defensive tackle (5): Justin Jones, Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens, Andrew Billings and Travis Bell

When the Bears were at their best, they had some beef up front, as Bilal Nichols, Eddie Goldman, and Akiem Hicks were a load for any offensive line to handle. Chicago would like to get back to that style again, but it will take a lot of work as plenty of new faces are joining the Bears' front seven.

Returning for Chicago is the now-famous Justin Jones, as he will look to take on more of a leadership role this season. Jones will have several rookies alongside him, including Andrew Billings and Travis Bell, as that trio will need to lead the defensive line group. However, a pair of rookies in Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens could be the keys to the Bears defense. If they can stop the run and create pressure from the inside, this unit will be much better than people expect.

Linebackers (4): TJ Edwards, Tremaine Edmunds, Jack Sanborn and Noah Sewell

The most significant overhaul on the Bear's entire roster came at the LB position, as they have lost virtually everyone in the past two seasons. Roquan Smith was the final straw last year, as his departure signaled the end of an era and a successful run from the former Bears defensive core.

This was the biggest area of need for the Bears entering the offseason, and Poles wasted no time getting the job done by adding TJ Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds as the new faces of the LB group. Edmunds has been one of the better LBs for a few years and will now take over the QB position on the defense. Pair him with Edwards, who is athletic and has shown flashes of being a star, and this unit will surprise many people.

It will take more than just two LBs to get the job done, and the Bears will have to figure out who else will round out that group. Look for previously undrafted Jack Sanborn to be one of the favorites after playing exceptionally well as a rookie last season. Rookies Noah Sewell and Dylan Cole are also some names to watch, as they will all compete for the final spot.

Cornerbacks (6): Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor, Josh Blackwell, Jaylon Jones, and one more

The one area of the Bears defense that didn't need much improvement was the secondary. Sure, the overall results could have been better, but your secondary will get torched when you can't pressure the QB. However, given how young this group is, the sky is the limit, and you could be talking about one of the better secondary groups in the NFL next season.

Jaylon Johnson will anchor the CB for the third straight season as he has stepped into the No. 1 CB role nicely. Since the departure of Kyle Fuller, Johnson has taken over the role Fuller once filled and is now playing for a long-term contract extension. Another good year under his belt should give him that, as the Bears have a good one.

Johnson isn't alone as second-year player Kyler Gordon is expected to nickel spot and split time with Kindle Vildor this season. Those three will make a ton of plays and dare QBs to throw in their direction. Regarding the rest of the secondary, most importantly, who plays the outside with Johnson, look for Josh Blackwell or Jaylon Jones as options.

You also have a few other players in camp who will compete for one of those final spots.

Safeties (4): Eddie Jackson, Elijah Hicks, Kendall Williamson, and one more

Like the CB position, the Bear's safety unit appears set, which makes this secondary lethal. With Eddie Jackson and Jaquon Brisker back in the mix, the Bears will have a starting safety group with the potential to be a top unit in football. However, the role players behind them are concerning, which is something the Bears need to address in camp.

Losing DeAndre Houston-Carson was not ideal as he remains unsigned. Granted, there is a chance Houston-Carson does ultimately re-sign with the Bears, but until then, look for Elijah Hicks to have a more prominent role this season.

The Bears also drafted Kendall Williamson in the seventh round to play the safety position, as he should get the final spot and reps on special teams.

Special Teams (3): Cairo Santos, Patrick Scales, and Andrew Szmyt

There is not much change in the special team's room as Cairo Santos returns as the kicker, while Patrick Scales has also been re-signed to a one-year deal. The Bears will also have Trenton Gill back in the mix as their special team's trio remains intact from a season ago. That is more crucial than people realize and could go a long way.

If there was something to watch, it could be the kicker, where Santos will have some competition this season. Rookie Andrew Szmyt will be giving Santos a run for his money. Granted, Szmyt may have the bigger leg, but Santos is more accurate, so he has the leg up right now, as Szmyt could be used for long field goal attempts and kickoffs.

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