Idonije mounts challenge for starting job

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Fifth-year defensive end Mark Anderson is expected to get the first crack at replacing former starter Alex Brown at the end spot opposite newcomer Julius Peppers, but veteran lineman Israel Idonije remains in the mix to challenge Anderson for a spot on the first team.

"Absolutely, I'm coming into work knowing the position and knowing the defense," Idonije said Thursday, when asked if it would be a mistake to assume Anderson has the job locked up. "Mark has played it consistently for the last number of years. This is my first full year playing at that end spot, so I'm just coming in to give everything that I have. At the end of the day, I know I'm going to get on the field and play.

“At the end of the day, we dress three defensive ends that have to be productive. All three guys. I just want to win games, get a lot of sacks, get to the quarterback. First, second, third [in the defensive end rotation], I'm not worried about it."

Bouncing from end to defensive tackle the past few seasons, Idonije bullked up to the 285-290 pound range to better handle the rigors of playing the interior defensive line position. Idonije lost approximatly 20 pounds for his move back outside, where speed becomes a larger factor when trying to pressure the quarterback.

"I think physically [6-6, 265 pounds] I'm more suited for that end spot," Idonije said. "I think the end spot fits me a little better. I'm fortunate I was able to put on the weight and play at the defensive tackle position and have some success there. For me, whatever they need me to do, I'm going to strap it up and play to the best of my ability."

Idonije, who signed an extension with the Bears prior to last season, has tallied eight career regular season sacks, six of those coming in the past two years.

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.