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Fortifications on the Bears Front

The Bears have a need to add along the defensive line due to potential free agent loss from Akiem Hicks and/or Bilal Nichols, and it could be an even greater need if there is a scheme change of some type.

So much on the personnel end depends on the coaching situation as the Bears look forward to the coming offseason.

If there is a coaching change, do they retain the current defensive system and even defensive coordinator Sean Desai? Although the Bears defense let down at game's end in at least four instances, each one is directly traceable back to the personnel gaffes made by general manager Ryan Pace in the defensive backfield. 

Another key factor was injuries, but those happen every year. They're going to always have injuries when they depend on five or six starters in their 30s.

However, Desai's defense is top 10 in the league at the moment and no one can accuse them of doing it with an abundance of young talent. He revived a pass rush without Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks for much of the year, and with Robert Quinn becoming the player Pace envisioned when signed during free agency.

The defense is badly in need of secondary help but it's in need of renovation overall. 

Leakage against the run is alarming Akiem Hicks' status as a free agent makes this one area the Bears need to address. If they keep the scheme, it would be unusual if they retained both Hicks and Bilal Nichols. 

Whoever they retain, they'll need defensive line help going forward. In this scheme, it means big, versatile playmakers and they are not always found in the first round of the draft mainly because of the size prerequisite. For the Bears, this is ideal since they lack a Round 1 pick. 

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Here is an early glimpse at several potential picks they could come across in the draft, keeping in mind first-round types like Jordan Davis of Georgia are out of the range of the Bears because they traded the pick for the ability to select Justin Fields.

Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

If you sculpted a perfect defensive line candidate coming out of college for this scheme, it would be this player. Pace always has been prone to selecting Georgia players and hit a home run with Roquan Smith. Time has shown his selection of Leonard Floyd was not incorrect, either. At 6-foot-2 1/2, 313 pounds, Wyatt's only drawback is lack of ideal height. Even then, he's at least average for the spot. Wyatt is very versatile, and this is something the Bears have needed from interior defensive linemen since Vic Fangio put the scheme in place in 2015. He has played over center, at three-technique and five-technique. It's the kind of experience he would get if he played in the Bears scheme. NFL Draft Bible ranks Wyatt No. 80 overall in its top 100 prospects. His upper-body strength is praised in the website's assessment by NFLDB's Lorenz Leinweber, and one major criticism of him is extremely common among all young defensive linemen.  "His hand usage is very raw and he has to develop a plan. "His hand usage is very raw ...," Leinweber wrote. There is one other concern from his past which any team will need to check out. NFLDB reports an arrest for misdemeanor charges including damage to property, family violence and criminal trespass. 

Travis Jones, Connecticut

In his assessment for NFLDB, Cory McCann Ezring describes Jones as capable of playing nose, 1-technique and 3-technique. This means he is also capable of being the ideal 3-4 defensive end for the Bears because he is already very similar in size to Hicks at 6-5, 333. If a player that big has the quickness to be an effective 3-technique, he can play the position Hicks mans. In his scouting report, Ezring describes Jones as "... A dominant run defender who pushes the pocket as a pass-rusher. ..." Ranked 86th overall in the NFLDB top 100, Jones and all the Huskies missed last season when the program suspended play. Jones this season had career highs of 48 tackles, 7 1/2 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 sacks. It wasn't easy to do considering the poor season the Huskies had overall at 1-11.

Haskell Garrett, Ohio State

Garrett already has been through one ordeal and lived to tell about it. He was struck in the face by a bullett while trying to break up a fight between two people. A true senior, he is described by NFL Draft Bible's Vinnie Calderone as having a "quick get-off," and often attracts double teams. The Bears can use someone with this ability on the line. He's described at 6-2, 302 as difficult to move out in the run game but also a smart player who diagnoses quickly. His quickness was such that the Buckeyes used him often as a 3-technique. Perhaps because he is so experienced, Garrett has developed several strong techniques normally associated with NFL defensive interior line play. "Utilizes a quality spin move, swim move and push/pull," NFL Draft Bible's Nick Lamattina wrote. 

Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

A potential second-round level pick who seems to split early scouting reports. He is called the third-best defensive interior lineman in the draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper, Mathis is ideal in size, strength and production for the Bears scheme at 6-foot-4, 312 pounds. He has 41 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks. NFLDB does not rate him among the top 100 players in the draft and just the 11th best interior defensive lineman overall. Leinweber's assessment is somewhat scathing: "Mathis projects as a depth piece along the defensive line who can be an occasional run defender. He will have a difficult time making a roster and might start on a practice squad, offering depth later in a season."

Zachary Carter, Florida

Players of Carter's size for the Bears project as a specific use type unless he put on about 20 pounds or more. Carter would more fit the role they've given to Mario Edwards Jr. as a pass-rushing tackle or their 3-technique when the nickel defense is on the field. At 6-3 1/2, 285 pounds, he couldn't be a stout end in the 3-4.  His use as a pass rusher is undeniable with 16 career sacks so far.

"He is best as a bull rusher, landing his hands and pushing the pocket," Leinweber wrote. "Carter punishes leaning blockers on the perimeter by knocking their hands down and showing flexibility to turn the corner." NFLDB's Lamattina adds, "At his current body type, he is versatile enough to play all over the place as a 3-technique, 5-technique, and 7-technique." The overall assessment is Carter is not going to help many teams against the run. Walterfootball.com rates Carter as a second-round pick.

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