Not all the Bears’ pieces are in place just yet

For Bears general manager Ryan Poles, the work is never done. Teams are always looking for ways to improve, even with the NFL draft now in the books.

The Bears are certainly much better than they were two years ago. Poles has almost completely turned over the roster. After drafting rookie quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick on April 25, the Bears believe they can start winning football games right now.

Last year’s team, with Justin Fields at quarterback, went 7-10 on the strength of a surging defense. The hope is that this defense will make life easy on a rookie quarterback.

So which positions are most concerning moving forward? Here’s a look.

Defensive end

Heading into the draft, the defensive line appeared to be an area where the Bears might look to bolster their team. They waited to do so until their final pick of the weekend. They traded a future draft pick in order to pick up an extra fifth-round pick and select Kansas edge rusher Austin Booker.

Booker is a project. He’s going to take time to develop and can still add some size to his lengthy frame. The Bears aren’t expecting him to be a starter anytime soon.

As of now, the starters at defensive end appear to be Montez Sweat and veteran DeMarcus Walker. Walker had only 3.5 sacks in 17 games last season (with 12 starts). The Bears had no problem using Walker as a rotational piece after they traded for Sweat last year, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they still brought in additional help at defensive end.

Last year, the team signed Yannick Ngakoue in early August. The Bears could hold out and wait to find some veteran help at the last minute yet again.

Defensive tackle

Justin Jones, a starter for the past two seasons, left in free agency, signing with the Arizona Cardinals. The Bears brought back run-stopper Andrew Billings on a two-year extension through 2025. Billings, at 6-foot-1, 311 pounds, is there to eat up space, not necessarily rush the passer.

But Poles and coach Matt Eberflus want one of their defensive tackles to be an athletic monster who can dent the pocket from the middle. Late last season, rookie Gervon Dexter showed signs of that. A 2023 second-round draft pick, Dexter came off the bench last season. It took him some time to find his stride, but when he did he looked impressive.

Dexter had nine of his 12 quarterback hits during the final eight games of the season. All of his 2.5 sacks also came during the second half of the season. With Jones gone, Dexter might be ready to step into the starting lineup during his second season as a pro.

That said, this could still be a spot where the Bears keep an eye out for veteran help.

Interior offensive line

The Bears made two major moves to address a center position that was a liability last season. They traded for Bills backup Ryan Bates and signed former Rams starting center Coleman Shelton. Right now, it’s unclear whether Bates or Shelton will be the starting center. Both could also be versatile backups who are able to play multiple positions.

But last year proved the Bears can never have enough quality offensive linemen. Guards Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis both missed time due to injury. In his three pro seasons, Jenkins has yet to play a full season. Injuries and a personal matter limited Davis to only 11 games in 2023. There’s no guarantee both those guards can remain healthy all season.

The Bears will likely always be keeping an eye out for good offensive linemen.

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