By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Two offseasons simply weren’t enough for general manager Ryan Pace to overhaul the Bears’ roster and clean the mess Phil Emery left behind, but he was able to completely revamp the front seven.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Winter Weather Advisory Issued For Illinois; 1-3 Inches Of Snow Possible
Ch-ch-changes are coming for the rest of the roster in the offseasons ahead, but Pace admirably realized the ways he could bolster the defensive front. Now, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has plenty of toys to play with in 2016.
Word of Fangio’s eagerness to draft Leonard Floyd with the No. 9 pick of this past draft expressed just part of that vision for his Bears defense. Meanwhile, Pace was pleased to take a chance on a potential talent on the edge.
Floyd’s development will be at the focus of any conversation involving the 24-year-old, but he certainly will have a place on this defense. Fangio will likely utilize Floyd’s speed and athleticism in passing downs in his rookie season. We’ll later find what he can become.
Of course, Floyd’s abilities are just part of the versatility from this front seven.
Monsters Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks will play off each other up front. The second-round pick of 2015 now in his second season, Goldman will primarily play the nose, and Hicks’ massive 336-pound frame will line up at the 5-technique. They can also swap roles just fine.
Fangio has plenty of options in how Goldman and Hicks can complement each other up front. Their first movements will create opportunities for the rest of the defense.
Veteran Mitch Unrein projects to start at the other defensive end. Bears coach John Fox loves the steady presence of Unrein, whom he coached in Denver.
Look for a healthy dose of Jonathan Bullard, the third-round pick who could prove to be one of the greatest steals of this draft. Bullard has an impressive burst off the snap and could make an impact in his rookie season. Like Floyd, Bullard continues to see an increased workload in the preseason.READ MORE: Chicago Park District Hosts Polar Adventure Days At Northerly Island
Emery picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton should see a spot in the rotation too, though nothing is guaranteed. Sutton has worked plenty at nose tackle with the second-team defense.
It’s up to Fangio in deciding how the defensive line reps are sorted out. Then come the snaps at linebacker.
Ideally, Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman stay healthy and play nearly every snap at the two inside linebacker spots. Outside linebacker provides plenty of options.
A healthy Pernell McPhee would start at one outside linebacker position, while Willie Young and Lamarr Houston have gotten the first-team reps in McPhee’s absence. Young and Houston led the Bears in sacks last season, even as they adjusted to new roles while coming off serious knee rehabs.
The rookie Floyd provides a look of speed, similar to Young, while McPhee and Houston are both power pass rushers who can be tough to contain without holding.
Steady linebacker Sam Acho adds stability to the defense during his snaps. However, he’s likely to serve more of a special teams role this season while Floyd assumes a larger spot in the rotation.
Fangio has plenty to determine in how he creates backfield disruption with this arsenal. There are variations of speed and power with which he can present different looks.
It seems the Bears’ bolstered front seven is poised to do some damage. Fangio will enjoy pressing the buttons.MORE NEWS: Northwestern Medicine Study Gives Clues About How Long COVID-19 Symptoms Can Linger