When the Bears used two of their first three draft picks on defensive linemen, one of the first questions we had was where are they going to carve out some playing time?
As coaches like to say, that will sort itself out. That is the refrain that signals competition is on the way, the one thing that sorts out players and pecking order more than anything else.
Tackle Jarron Gilbert and end Henry Melton have been added to the mix and all of the linemen from 2008 are back this season.
"They're big, athletic guys,'' new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli said of the draft picks. "They have speed, and they bend very well. In terms of just the size and movement they show, we're very happy with them."
Israel Idonije has been bounced outside to end again but none of the players have left. They're all in the mix for 2009 so it is going to be an interesting situation. The Bears carried 10 linemen on the roster at times last season. They opened with nine but expanded when they promoted end Ervin Baldwin from the practice squad in November to prevent losing him to Kansas City. They went back to nine after tackle Dusty Dvoracek landed on injured reserve in December for the third consecutive season.
So adding Gilbert, the third-round pick from San Jose State, and Melton, the fourth-round pick from Texas, to the roster the Bears now have 13 players for what should be nine or 10 slots. That includes postseason addition Joe Clermond, who was a camp body last summer and spent some time on the practice squad. Clermond and Baldwin, a seventh-round pick a year ago, face an uphill battle. The Bears look locked into keeping five ends--Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Idonije and Melton--and that means the remaining cuts will have to come from the interior. Matt Toeaina has had a role as a well-liked backup but simply hasn't been given any real opportunities.
But beyond the roster spots, let's take a close look at playing time by evaluating the number of snaps that were shared on the line last season: