The Chicago Bears enter their bye week with a 4-1 record, riding a three game winning streak. The resurgence of an "aging" defense has been the key to the Bears early season success.
With outside linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman becoming the first teammates in NFL history to return interceptions for touchdowns in back to back games, those players are getting the lion's share of the attention in one of the leagues best defenses.
While those two players have been huge for the Bears defense they are not the main reasons for the Bears defensive success, the defensive line is.
Coming into the season not many people were paying much attention to the Bears defensive line outside of Julius Peppers. More people ought to be paying attention to this Bears defensive line if they are not already.
As a team the Chicago Bears have accumulated 18 sacks, with 16 of those sacks coming from the defensive line. That is quite impressive considering outside of Peppers there are no big names nationally on that line... yet.
Possibly the best player of this "unknown" group is defensive tackle Henry Melton. Melton a fourth year player out of Texas already has 4.5 sacks in five games played. The Bears have been high on Melton for a few years now and are finally starting to see the potential they have been raving about.
While Melton has shown flashes over the past couple of seasons he has just never reached the heights the Bears have expected until now. Melton is a former running back and is extremely athletic for a tackle making him a tough blocking assignment for any offensive linemen unfortunate enough to lineup across from him.
Corey Wooten may be best known for ending the career of Brett Favre on the frozen turf of TCF bank stadium. Soon Wooten will be known for more then that at the pace he is playing at.
Wooten has three sacks playing in rotation at defensive end opposite of Peppers. Wooten has seen increasing playing time as the season has progressed and may wind up as the Bears second defensive end if he continues playing the way he is.
Wooten is in his third year out of Northwestern and has been battling injuries his entire career thus far. Now Healthy Wooten is making the kind of impact the Bears envisioned when drafting him.
Shea McClellin was the Bears first round pick back in April. The pick of McClellin was a bit of a head scratcher to some as he seemed to be more suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense rather then d end in a 4-3 defense.
McClellin has played very well in his rookie season as part of the Bears defensive end rotation. When on the field McClellin has used his tremendous speed to fire into the backfield and while he only has two sacks so far, he has been very close several times making opposing QB's very aware of his presence.
Last but not least we have Julius Peppers.
Peppers has been battling a foot injury most of the season, but you wouldn't know it watching him play. Peppers has 2.5 sacks thus far this season and is a constant disruption in the offenses backfield. Peppers has been a dominant force on the Bears D-line since coming to Chicago prior to the 2010 season. Much of his teammates success can be attributed to teams game planning for peppers and double teaming him often. Peppers is the unquestioned leader on the Bears defensive line.
With these players contributions the Bears defensive line has reeked havoc on opposing offense through the first five games of the 2012 season. Their stellar play has allowed the Bears to be able to drop linebackers into coverage and rarely blitz. By not blitzing as much opposing offenses are truly struggling to do much of anything against this outstanding defense. If the Bears D-line continues to play the way it has we may be talking about the Bears taking a trip to New Orleans in February.