“I love it here in Chicago,” Walkers exclaimed in a tweet on May 3.
The seventh-year man out of Florida State whose Twitter profile reads “Bear TF Down” has a massive opportunity in front of him. His new team boasted what was arguably the league’s most anemic pass rush last season recording just 20 sacks on the campaign, ranking 32nd in the NFL. Only the Atlanta Falcons recorded a worse pressure rate.
Enter Walker, 28, who is coming off a career-high 7.0 sacks and 10 tackles for loss with the Tennessee Titans. At 6-foot-4 and listed at 280 pounds, he figures to offer head coach Matt Eberflus the option to use him inside or outside. But after the class the Bears came away from the first wave of free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft with, EDGE is certainly where he is needed most.
DE/DT DeMarcus Walker to the #Bears…
6-foot-4, 280. Seven sacks in ‘22.
Interior pass rush production in TEN. Play-strength shows on the tape. Vertical push off the ball. Twists/stunts. One-gap defender in CHI. pic.twitter.com/jWTVkz0dNf
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 14, 2023
Bears general manager Ryan Poles is certainly aware of the need but is sticking to a plan.
Ryan Poles Staying Patient on Bears Pass Rush
“You want the right talent,” Poles told reporters after the draft concluded. “And then, like anything, proper value that makes sense…You try to stay disciplined, do the right thing, and not panic and do something that’s going to hurt us down the road. I think that has paid off for us and it will continue to.”
Poles went on to say the need for “certain things to lineup” would determine if they added to the group noting that training camp is not for a couple of months still.
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) March 10, 2023
All of that sounds like an opportunity for Walker – or fellow free-agent acquisition Rasheem Green who has 10.0 sacks over the last two seasons in a part-time role, or either of incumbents Trevis Gipson or second-year, former college wideout Domonique Robinson – to step up.
Trevis Gipson Acknowledged Down Season
Gipson is entering a key time, heading into his fourth season and the final year of his contract.
He’s coming off an admitted down season in which he recorded just 3.0 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss despite being active for all 17 games including 10 starts.
“Personally I’m [going to] give myself probably a ‘D’ if not ‘F’,” Gipson said after the season finale. “The sack numbers went down but, I don’t know. If I’m basing it off production probably that grade. But, if I’m basing it off improvement, probably a ‘C’. I got better in areas but it’s a new scheme and it’s a lot of things I realize I need to work on.”
To this point, here is Trevis Gipson to me on playing behind Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn after notching 2 strip-sacks in the #Bears Wk 16 win over the NYG. He had a great approach https://t.co/lV20VNgWAm pic.twitter.com/zOIpjEcv5F
— Josh Buckhalter (@JoshGBuck) March 11, 2022
It was not that long ago that Poles was pronouncing his faith in Gipson, Robinson, et al. before the season went awry for the group.
“I really do trust in Gipson, he’s had a good start to the season,” Poles said after trading Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles. “And even young Dom Robinson has flashed…And I think he’s going to continue to trend upwards.”
Even if that was just lip service, there is still an opportunity for someone to step up.