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The Chicago Bears Defensive Line is the Strongest Unit on the Team

As the Bears’ roster stands today, there is depth needed or questions revolving around nearly every unit. 

There is no starting nickel corner. Right tackle needs to be addressed. And quarterback is still a mystery even with the Bears signing Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million deal. 

The Bears could add players at these positions in the upcoming draft. Given the importance of each of them, there is a chance general manager Ryan Pace will attempt to do that. 

However, there is one position group that doesn’t elicit more questions but instead provides answers and overall promise: the defensive line.

Even though Roy Robertson-Harris signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year, $24.4 million deal, the Bears still have a strong overall unit. 

The trio of Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols is one of the better starting groups in the NFL. Now, there is a possibility the Bears could move on from Hicks and save $10.5 million, but Chicago has seen what the defense looks like without the 6-foot-4, 352-pound defensive lineman and thus would be wise to keep Hicks for another season.  

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photos

In 15 games last season, Hicks accumulated 3.5 sacks, 49 combined tackles and 21 quarterback hits — the most on the team. After the first three weeks, though, Hicks didn’t register a sack for the rest of the season. He also injured his hamstring in the Week 10 loss against the Minnesota Vikings, which caused him to miss the next game in Green Bay. 

Getting Goldman back for the 2021 season will be a huge boost for the defense, specifically when stopping the run. In 2020, the Bears finished 15th in the league in rushing yards per game allowed (113.4), which was six spots lower than their ninth overall finish the season prior. 

To make up for Goldman’s absence, Nichols had to play out of position at times and play nose tackle. The third-year player had his moments manning the middle of the Bears’ defense, but he was far more productive when lined up in a 3 technique against the opposing left guard. Nicholas played every game last season and had eight sacks, 40 combined tackles, 13 quarterback hits and an interception.

To go along with this starting unit, on Sunday, the Bears and Mario Edwards Jr. agreed to a three-year, $11.55 million deal. In Edwards first season in Chicago he had four sacks, 17 combined tackles and seven quarterback hits. When Hicks or Nichols needed a breather, Edwards provided a pass rush for a Bears team that needed individuals to step up. 

Last season, the Bears also got good contributions from Brent Urban and John Jenkins. Both are free agents, but should be open to signing team-friendly deals. 

This unit will only reach its full potential if new defensive line coach Chris Rumph can get the most out of his group similar to how Jay Rodgers did in years past. It’s easier said than done. 

But the Bears’ defensive line has talent, depth and potential to have one of its best overall seasons. That alone should get Bears fans excited for what the defense can do in 2021. 

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