While fans debate far-fetched trade scenarios for former first-round picks like Khalil Mack, Dante Fowler and Shane Ray, the player they’re most likely going to need to pick up the slack is a former undrafted rookie free agent with just two career sacks.
Everything that happens in the preseason has to come with the caveat that it is just preseason, but it was hard to ignore Roy Robertson-Harris fork-lifting a pretty good guard in Ronald Leary before discarding him and sacking Case Keenum. It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen such a move by Robertson-Harris and there figures to be plenty more to come.
According to NFL Game Statistics and Information System, Robertson-Harris is second amongst all NFL players this preseason with 3.5 sacks and 6 quarterback hits. It should be noted that Robertson-Harris has played quite a few snaps and not always against starters.
Still, he’s doing all they can ask, consistently getting pressure regardless of who is lining up against him. And he’s doing it while playing a position that we don’t usually see pass rushers play.
Robertson-Harris came to the team as an outside linebacker, but red-shirted his rookie season because of an illness. He put on 20-30 pounds and became a defensive lineman before last year, but struggled to make an impact after an early season injury.
The third-year player from UTEP looks to be coming into his own finally. He started the preseason game against Denver, while former third-round pick Jon Bullard sat. While still not likely to be able to consistently win covering two gaps, we’ve seen Robertson-Harris hold up against the run.
In the video below, he can be seen thinning 2018 first-round pick Billy Price to make a tackle:
Heck of a rep by RRH pic.twitter.com/EDb3xsrqEE
— Andrew Dannehy (@adannehy) August 10, 2018
Before our very own eyes, we’re seeing a player develop. The Bears have one of the best defensive line coaches in the business in Jay Rodgers and Robertson-Harris has clearly been willing to put in the work necessary to succeed.
While fans — and coaches too, for that matter — are waiting and hoping edge rushers like Isaiah Irving and Kylie Fitts develop, the reality is, they don’t have a lot coming off the edge. They need Leonard Floyd to be better and, of course, healthy. Sam Acho is OK and the only other realistic pass-rushing option is Aaron Lynch, who hasn’t even played yet this exhibition season. The Bears need pass rush from their defensive line.
The next step for Robertson-Harris, of course, is taking it into the regular season. The Bears already have one good interior pass rusher in Akiem Hicks, if Robertson-Harris can keep playing at this high of a level when the real games start, you can expect their defense to be in the top 10 again in 2018.