Inside the locker room Thursday at Halas Hall, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina took a few minutes during his first full day as a Bear to introduce himself to new teammates.

Fellow defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, practically a veteran in comparison having arrived two days before Toeaina, nodded as he walked by.

Across the room, old pro Babatunde Oshinowo was busy helping a TV reporter cpronounce his first name so it would sound right on the evening news.

That's 1,061 pounds of new blood the Bears imported into active roster this week due to losses on the defensive line that further depleted the NFL's 25th-ranked run defense.

It's a heavy burden figuring out how to stop Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson, one that could weigh on the Bears' minds for a good chunk of the next decade.

To prepare themselves for that long-term reality, the Bears might consider responding over time the way they started this week until they fix what's broken about the Cover-2 run defense.

Call it the Bears' Peterson Principle: Elevate as many healthy linemen as it takes until the defense is no longer incompetent stopping the run.

Peterson's emergence in Minnesota this season threatens to change the emphasis for the Bears defense and others in the NFC North as much as any newcomer to the division since Barry Sanders. In the near NFL future teams will conclude stopping the Vikings means stopping Peterson, who threatens to make Minnesota legitimate playoff contenders for awhile.

Peterson looks too good to be considered a fad, returned too quickly from a knee sprain to be considered injury prone, and possesses too much maturity to think he will squander his potential.

So in addition to auditioning defensive tackles to see if they're good enough to rest Tommie Harris for the final two games or let Darwin Walker go in the off-season, the Bears might have to shift their thinking early in the draft.

A team strength suddenly looks like a soft spot in a much-harder division to win.

Sure, the Bears need to draft an offensive lineman, a running back and will consider a quarterback. But they have selected only one defensive tackle in the last three years (Dusty Dvoracek) and Harris' iffy health makes the position a priority next April.


There's plenty of time to speculate about that question. Here are some others with more clear-cut answers.

Do you think the Bears are considering trading one of the defensive ends? There'll be a logjam next year when Dan Bazuin comes back with Israel Idonije, Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson. Could they get a good guard or tackle or a good safety? --Killer Kane, Dubuque, Iowa

Maybe but none of the guys you mentioned -- Ogunleye, Brown or Anderson -- should be traded. Idonije is too valuable on special teams too. Bazuin is unproven and a risk, so it would be unwise to overreact based on his potential. Put Brown back in the starting lineup and use Anderson in spot duty again in '08. Ogunleye is having a Pro Bowl-caliber year even if he might not make it due to how many other DEs are enjoying fine seasons too.

Devin Hester has proved to be most dangerous in the open field with some blockers, so why not use him in two RB sets where Turner can call screen passes and outside runs to Hester? --Alex, Evanston

In the first half against the Redskins, one of the potential roadblocks to such an innovative idea arose. Hester had trouble getting lined up and running the right route as a wide receiver so expanding his duties to include running back, where pass protection rules are strict, might be asking too much. Athletically, it makes sense. But the move would force Hester to learn another part of the offense he already has struggled to learn.

I know you think the Bears probably won't bring back Mike Brown next season. But seeing as how the team lacks even one quality safety on the entire team, shouldn't they at least consider trying to sign him cheap and hope to pick up another safety in the draft/free agency? --Aaron, Iowa City