The Chicago Bears have always been built around defense. The key to a successful defense is up front with the pass rush.
The Bears have a lot of players who can rush the passer. In the last few years though, they have been inconsistent at getting to the quarterback.
They go through stretches where they seem to get pressure on the opposition rather easily. Other games the pass rush disappears completely.
With aging players on defense and a secondary that cannot seem to find the right combination of safeties, it is imperative that in 2012 the pass rush steps up.
The defensive line is led by Julius Peppers. He is entering his third season with the Bears and has been very good since joining the team as a free agent in 2010.
Peppers’ impact cannot be measured solely based on numbers, although he did have 11 sacks in 2011. He draws so much attention from opposing offenses that it allows for other members of the defensive line to face one-on-one blocking.
Israel Idonije has been the primary defensive end opposite Peppers and even though his sack numbers have gone up since Peppers’ arrival, they have not been what Bears' fans were hoping for.
In 2010, Idonije had a career high eight sacks and he saw that number drop to five in 2011. For the Bears to be successful on defense, he must provide more pressure on the quarterback.
The Bears used their 2012 first-round draft pick on defensive Shea McClellin with the hope he can come in and provide a pass rush for the defense. There is some debate as to whether or not McClellin can play with his hand on the ground or if he is more suited to be a stand up rush linebacker.
Given that the Bears only use three linebackers at a time, he may only see action as a rush linebacker sporadically. It may not be a bad thing, however, as the Bears may use him in third-and-long situations.
Corey Wootton has had many chances to make an impact but he cannot seem to stay healthy and when he is, he does not play consistently enough. This year is a make or break year for Wootton.
The Bears have a number of defensive tackles that figure to see plenty of playing time throughout the season. In addition to stopping the run, the players in the middle will also be asked to rush the passer and create pressure.
One of the players who seems to fit the bill of being able to stop the run and create pressure is Henry Melton. He enjoyed a productive 2011 campaign, but he must become more consistent in order to make a significant impact on this defense.
The Bears acquired former second-round pick Brian Price from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just as training camp was starting.
Price should have all the opportunity to play for the Bears and it is up to him whether or not he figures out a way to use all the talent he possesses.
Matt Toeania will likely be one of the starters next to Melton on opening day. He is not a flashy defensive tackle, but he can stop the run and, on occasion, penetrate the middle and pressure the quarterback.
The wild card in all of this might be Stephen Paea. Former general manager Jerry Angelo drafted Paea after seeing him set the combine record in the bench press. So far that is the best of his accomplishments since leaving college. He has all the physical ability to be a dominant defensive tackle. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued him early in his career. If Paea can stay healthy and perform there is no doubting he can be an impact player on defense.
The NFL is fast becoming a passing league, if it is not already. This means you must have players who can get pressure on the quarterback. The Bears have plenty of those players on the defensive line. This season is about using those players to their full potential and becoming a dominant force.