Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina doesn’t get a whole lot of attention from the media. But that doesn’t mean the fourth-year pro from Oregon isn’t a valuable member of the Bears.
“He flies under your radar, not ours,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli told a reporter Thursday at training camp. “He is really a good football player. He just comes to work. He’s improved from last year. He has daily improvement. He’s improved as a pass rusher. He’s a load in the run game as it is.”
Last season Toeaina recorded 33 tackles, two sacks, seven quarterback pressures and one fumble recovery while appearing in all 16 games as a reserve.
The 6-2, 308-pounder is listed as a co-starter at both defensive tackle positions on the first depth chart the Bears’ released Wednesday. With Anthony Adams nursing a calf injury, Toeaina likely will start at nose tackle next to Henry Melton in Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.
Other defensive tackles battling for playing time include free-agent acquisition Amobi Okoye, rookie second-round pick Stephen Paea, Marcus Harrison and Tank Tyler, a four-year NFL veteran who Marinelli singled out for making key tackles in Wednesday night’s live goal-line drill.
Marinelli, who intends to give each player about 20 reps against the Bills, gave his defensive tackles an opportunity to make an impact Wednesday night during a spirited two-minute drill.
“These two-minute drills that we do, they’re fun,” Marinelli said. “It really can tell you who can pass rush when they’re fatigued, and under duress who can make calls and communicate and all those types of things. Those are all the things you’re looking for.”