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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Nate Atkins

Bears 2023 training camp preview: Interior defensive line

Chicago Bears training camp is less than a month away, so it’s time to start looking ahead at the roster the team is bringing to Lake Forest.We’re unveiling our Bears 2023 training camp position previews, breaking down every player by position and examining the group’s biggest question.

Up next is the interior defensive line, a focus area of the Bears this offseason, signing free agent Andrew Billings and drafting rookies Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens and Travis Bell.

Like most teams, the Bears have more defensive linemen on the roster heading into training camp than they will have in Week 1 of the regular season. Most teams will aim to be two-deep at each position, meaning only four of the seven linemen on the depth chart will suit up against Green Bay on Sept. 10.

Here’s a closer look at the Bears’ interior defensive line heading into training camp:

Andrew Billings

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Billings was brought in on a one-year contract during the offseason to improve the Bear’s run defense. The former Raider is a run-stopper and a high-motor player who never gives up on the play.

With 17 career tackles for loss, he looks to attack and make plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He’s likely a rotational player and has never played more than 60% of the defensive snaps in his career, but that should keep him fresh and able to maximize his potential.

Justin Jones

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Justin Jones needs a break. As the starting three-technique, he played 744 snaps last year — a career-high. His snap count ranked in the top 15 for interior defensive linemen. Although Jones had one of his best years statistically, at 26 years old with a year left on his contract, adding depth behind the three-technique is a good idea.

Zacch Pickens

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Zacch Pickens was a 5-star prospect and the No. 1 defensive tackle in the nation when he signed with South Carolina. He ended his collegiate career with 131 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss.

A three-year starter for the Gamecocks, he never missed a game and is a great run-stopping defensive lineman. He can play the one and three techniques but has a limited pass rush skill-set. Paired with Billings, Jones, and fellow rookie Gervon Dexter, he should make an immediate impact.

Gervon Dexter

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Dexter, like Pickens, was a 5-star recruit and played immediately for the Florida Gators. He played 254 snaps as a true freshman and finished his junior year with 636 snaps. So, while he’s criticized for having a poor motor, he also could’ve been overworked.

In three seasons, Dexter had 120 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Having the chance to split snaps with Jones will help keep Dexter fresh. Hopefully, he will immediately impact the Bears’ defensive line.

Travis Bell

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Travis Bell is one of the remaining defensive linemen who must fight to make the 53-man roster. The seventh-round draft pick is strong (30 bench press reps at his pro day) and plays with a high motor.

He’s also won over most of the front office, which helped make him the first draft pick from Kennesaw State. But he’s a developmental player and undersized. He’ll likely be on the practice squad.

Jalyn Holmes

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Jalyn Holmes was signed to the practice squad in October 2022 and will likely be there again in 2023. A former defensive end, it seems Chicago is bumping him inside. Given his size at 6-foot-5, 283 pounds, he looks more like a three-technique in the Bears’ 4-3 defense.

Minnesota surprisingly cut Holmes after a decent season in 2020. Since then, he’s been on the Saints, Giants, and now the Bears.

Andrew Brown

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Andrew Brown is a journeyman defensive tackle. The Bears are his seventh team since 2018, and since leaving Cincinnati, he’s been unable to get off the practice squad.

Big Question: Will Gervon Dexter be the impact player Chicago needs at the three-technique?

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense relies on a stud three-technique to be the motor of the defense. This player is expected to stop the run and rush the passer. The disruption of the three technique frees up outside rushers and keeps offensive linemen from blocking linebackers.

The biggest knocks on Dexter are that he’s slow off the ball and isn’t a great pass rusher. The Bears passed on a few big-name interior defensive linemen to take Dexter – hopefully, it pays off.

Training camp position previews

LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 02: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears takes part in a drill during training camp at the PNC Center at Halas Hall on August 02, 2022 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

We’re unveiling our Bears 2023 training camp position previews, where we’re breaking down every player by position and examining the biggest question facing the group.

Quarterbacks Running backs Wide receivers
Tight ends Offensive line Edge rushers
Interior defensive line (7/16) Linebackers (7/18) Cornerbacks (7/20)
Safeties (7/22) Special teams (7/24)
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