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Bears' 2019 position review: Defensive line


The following is the sixth of eight position reviews of the Bears' 2019 season.

The Bears did a decent job of employing their next-man-up mentality when injuries sidelined Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols in 2019. But their defensive line did not produce the impact plays that it did in 2018.

Hicks missed a Week 4 game against the Vikings with a knee injury and then sat out nine of the final 10 contests with an elbow injury. While Nick Williams stepped in and performed well in Hicks' absence, no Bears defensive lineman approached the 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 12 tackles-for-loss and 16 quarterback hits that Hicks recorded in 2018 when he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Nichols was limited early in the season and missed three games with a broken hand. He recorded one more tackle in 2019 than he did in 2018 (28-27) but fewer sacks (0-3), tackles-for-loss (1-5) and quarterback hits (2-7).

As a unit, the Bears defensive line saw its production drop from 2018 to 2019 in sacks (16.5-11.5), tackles-for-loss (29-14), quarterback hits (38-30) and forced fumbles (5-0).

Nevertheless, the linemen were still part of a defense that helped the Bears defense rank fourth in the NFL in points allowed (18.6 per game) and eighth in total yards (324.1)

The most positive development was the emergence of Williams, who had been out of football as recently as 2017. He signed with the Bears in 2018 after participating in a minicamp on a tryout basis and played sparingly in two games.

After Hicks was injured this season, Williams made the most of his expanded playing time, leading Bears defensive linemen with 42 tackles, six sacks and five tackles-for-loss. Not bad for someone who had entered his fifth NFL season having not recorded a sack in 38 career games with the Chiefs, Dolphins and Bears.

"I always knew I could get to the quarterback," Williams said during the season. "It was just a matter of getting the opportunity to get to the quarterback, getting those snaps, getting those plays in, and you'll eventually have success if you always bring your lunch pail to work. It's not surprising to me."

Tackle Roy Robertson-Harris ranked second on the line with 30 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three tackles-for-loss while leading the unit with 10 quarterback hits.

Nose tackle Eddie Goldman earned Pro Bowl alternate honors after compiling 29 tackles, one sack, two tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits.

Midseason acquisition Brent Urban compiled 16 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and one quarterback hit, while Abdullah Anderson had four tackles, one sack, one tackle-for-loss and one quarterback hit.

Of the top seven defensive linemen, only Williams and Urban are due to become unrestricted free agents in March.