Chicago Bears Depth Chart: Who will start at QB in Week 1?

Bears Depth Chart Analysis | Defense

How does Chicago’s defense shape up?

Interior Defensive Line

Akiem Hicks was allowed to seek a trade, but he is still a member of the Bears and is a critical piece of the Bears’ run defense. Hicks, 31, played 15 games last season and registered 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 21 quarterback hits. 

One of the defense’s essential cogs, Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns. Goldman made 47 starts from 2017 to 2019, where he recorded 113 tackles and 5.5 sacks.

Playing more DT during 2020 due to a heavier weight (313 pounds) at training camp and Goldman’s absence, Bilal Nichols became one of the more productive defensive linemen in the league. He ended the year with 40 tackles, 13 quarterback hits, 7 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 passes defensed, and 1 interception.

During the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bears added Khyiris Tonga, DT from BYU at pick No. 250, and Daniel Archibong, a UDFA out of Temple.

EDGE

The premier defensive player on the Bears’ depth chart, Khalil Mack is as good as they come off the edge. Mack amassed 50 tackles, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 11 tackles for a loss, and 1 interception en route to his sixth straight Pro Bowl.

A newer addition to the Bears’ depth chart, Jeremiah Attaochu signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal during free agency. The former Denver Bronco recorded 20.5 sacks and 144 tackles across 74 games and 23 starts in his career. Last season, Attaochu appeared in 13 games, including five starts, totaling 5 sacks, 9 quarterback hits, and 31 tackles.

Coming off 11.5 sacks and 26 quarterback hits with the Cowboys, Robert Quinn was expected to make an immediate impact for the Bears in 2020. Unfortunately, he was rather disappointing. On his first play with the Bears, he forced a strip-sack on Daniel Jones. Yet, his next sack would not come until Week 15. 

Chicago signed Mario Edwards Jr. to a three-year, $11.55 million contract in the offseason. Edwards will miss the first two games of the 2021 regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Edwards Jr. generated a career-high 4 sacks in 2020.

DE Angelo Blackson signed a two-year contract in the offseason with the Bears. Blackson, 28, has appeared in 85 games with 30 starts over six NFL seasons with the Titans, Texans, and Cardinals. He has recorded 101 tackles, 6 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits, 5 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

Linebacker

In 2020, Danny Trevathan started all 16 games in the regular season for just the third time in his career. He played 78% of defensive snaps and recorded 113 tackles. 

Roquan Smith accumulated 139 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 interceptions for the Bears last season and had a strong case to be an All-Pro selection. Since entering the NFL in 2018, Smith is ninth in the league with 361 tackles and has led the Bears’ depth chart all three seasons.

Initially drafted by the Bears in 2014, Christian Jones spent the last three seasons in Detroit. In his time with the Lions, Jones recorded 177 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 8 pass breakups, and 8 quarterback hits as he started 42 of 45 games.

Joel Iyiegbuniwe has played three seasons and appeared in 47 games with the Bears, primarily as a key special-teams contributor. 

Former Broncos LB Austin Calitro was added to the Bears’ depth chart after the draft. During his NFL career, he has 88 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, and 2 passes defensed in 42 career games.

Signed as a UDFA, Caleb Johnson (Houston Baptist) became the first player in the program’s history to make it to the NFL.

Cornerback

After losing Kyle Fuller in free agency, the Bears needed to regain some depth at cornerback. During the offseason, the Bears signed Desmond Trufant to a one-year deal. Now 30, the former Pro Bowler is coming off a down season with the Lions. He missed 10 games due to a nagging hamstring injury and participated in just nine games the year prior.

Taken as the seventh CB off the board in 2020, Jaylon Johnson was impressive as a rookie. In 13 games, Johnson recorded 44 total tackles, 15 pass breakups, and allowed 41 receptions before a shoulder injury forced him to miss the final three regular-season games and their Wild Card game.

Signed before the 2020 season on a one-year deal, Artie Burns tore his ACL during training camp, causing him to miss the entire season. He returns to the Bears after signing one-year contract for 2021. A former Steeler, Burns started 32 of the 58 games he appeared in, accruing 149 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 27 passes defensed.

Duke Shelley played in 11 games (two starts) and recorded 16 tackles. Kindle Vildor made his first appearance in Week 5 and filled in from Weeks 14 to 17 following Johnson’s injury. Tre Roberson spent the 2020 season on the non-football injury reserve list. Xavier Crawford played 5 defensive snaps for the Bears last year. 

Safety

After two phenomenal seasons, Eddie Jackson was on the verge of becoming one of the NFL’s better safeties. His playmaking ability took a bit of a downturn in 2020 with a plethora of dropped interceptions and missed tackles. However, Jackson still compiled 82 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 5 passes defensed. 

An eight-year NFL veteran, Tashaun Gipson returns to the Bears’ depth chart after signing a one-year deal. Gipson, 30, started all 16 games for the Bears last season. His consistency makes him a valuable player, having started 11 or more games in eight straight seasons.

Deon Bush re-signed with the Bears on a one-year deal during free agency. Last season, Bush appeared in 11 games as a reserve player. 

DeAndre Houston-Carson appeared in all 16 games in each of the past two seasons. Last year, he saw career-highs in defensive (91) and special teams (372 ) snaps.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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