As with any good defense, everything starts with the guys up front. And in the case of the Chicago Bears, the defensive line has historically been the foundation of this side of the ball. That’ll be the case heading into 2021, although there have been some changes to this group since last year. If everyone can stay healthy, the Bears' defense could be a top-10 unit again this season. With training camp ongoing, here are the defensive linemen currently on the roster.
He’s been the anchor of this group since arriving in Chicago in 2016. In a Bears uniform, Hicks has posted 222 total tackles, 46 tackles for a loss, 27.5 sacks, 79 quarterback hits, eight pass deflections, five forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries. His effectiveness against both the run and pass makes him difficult to block, and he draws double teams, which opens up chances for his teammates.
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Hicks is happy to have this man back lined up next to him. Goldman opted out of 2020 due to the pandemic, and he was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list at the start of training camp, but the hope is that he will be ready to go for the start of the season. Goldman says he’s stayed in shape despite not being on the field last year, and the Bears are more than happy to have his production back. The nose tackle from Florida State has recorded 153 tackles, 17 TFLs, 12.5 sacks, and 20 QB hits since Chicago took him 39th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The third-year man out of Delaware filled in admirably for Goldman in 2020, but he’s happy to return to his usual defensive end position for 2021. In No. 91’s absence, Nichols made 40 tackles, 13 TFLs, 5.0 sacks, 22 QB Hits, three pass deflections, and his first career interception. Nichols looks for even bigger numbers this year now that he’s back at his regular position.
Mario Edwards Jr.
When Nichols switched to nose tackle last year, Edwards carved out his spot on this team as the other defensive end. In 15 games, Edwards picked up 17 tackles, six TFLs, 4.0 sacks, seven QB hits, and one pass deflection. For this year, Edwards is expected to add quality depth behind the big three (Hicks, Goldman, Nichols).
This seventh-year veteran joins the Bears after gaining valuable experience in the 3-4 alignment with Tennessee (2015-16), Houston (2017-19), and Arizona (2020). And now he’s a favorite to land a prime rotation spot with the Bears based on said experience. Since 2015, the Auburn alumnus has accounted for 101 career tackles, 11 TFLs, 6.0 sacks, 17 QB hits, and five pass deflections. Blackson is especially effective against the run and adds another solid player to this group.
Another offseason acquisition at this position, Pennel was a member of the Super Bowl LIV champion Chiefs two seasons ago. And with the Bears, Pennel will get the first chance to be Goldman’s primary backup. He only has two career sacks and hasn’t had more than four QB hits in a single season, but Pennell is strong against the run (155 tackles, 8 TFLs) and can create opportunities for his teammates by drawing double teams.
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Western Illinois last year, he spent his rookie campaign on the practice squad. London will have to make his mark against a group of proven veterans, but the belief is that London is capable of playing both end and nose in this system.
Everyone is eager to see this man get on the field despite the fact that he was a late-round selection (7th Round, 250th overall). The BYU Cougars had among the best defenses in college football last year, and Tonga was one of the reasons why. In four years at Provo, he recorded 130 tackles, 16.0 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, and 12 pass deflections. But in the overall scheme of things, his performance helped make BYU a forced to be reckoned with.
In 2020 the Cougars were the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense (15.3 ppg) and ranked 11th overall (318.0 ypg). BYU held up pretty well against the run (120.5 ypg) and was able to put pressure on the opposing quarterback (26 sacks) as well. Tonga was on some of those highlight reels and probably should have been picked higher.
Kamara is an undrafted free agent out of FCS Stony Brook, but he had a productive career with the Seawolves. From 2016 to 2020, Kamara put out 110 tackles, 24.0 TFLs, and 15.0 sacks. Now Kamara looks to translate that production over the pro ranks.
Like London, Archibong also has the potential to play both positions. During his college days at Temple (2016-20), Archibong moved around the Owls' defensive line and made the most of his chances. When all was said and done, Archibong left Philadelphia with 87 tackles, 10.0 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, and eight pass deflections. He was part of a unit that was fourth in the American Athletic Conference in pass defense last season (224.4 ypg) and ranked second in forced fumbles (15).