Camping Out 2014; Who'll Be The Odd Man Out At LB?......

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by soulman, Jul 22, 2014.

  1. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Bears camping out ’14: Who will be odd man out among LBs?

    July 21, 2014, 10:30 am


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    Bears Insider John ‘Moon’ Mullin’ is getting you ready for Bears Training Camp, with previews of each position leading up to the day the Bears report to Bourbonnais.

    No other position group will command the level of attention that the linebackers will when training camp opens in July. And for good reason. Or reasons.

    Two of three starting jobs are unsettled, early offseason indicators notwithstanding. Even when the depth chart sorts itself out, the bigger second question is whether the emerging starter is in fact good enough to win because of in the NFL. The 2013 season wasn’t necessarily encouraging.

    Shea McClellin struggled through two lackluster years at defensive end, with an occasional pass-drop on his resume. When the Bears used their second-round pick on Florida linebacker Jonathan Bostic in 2013, the plan was for him to emerge as a starter, which he did when D.J. Williams went down with a season-ending chest injury five games into the year.

    The fourth-round pick of Khaseem Greene was another “pipeline” step, putting youth behind Lance Briggs at weak-side linebacker but also at more than one spot. Like Bostic, Greene was catapulted into the starting lineup as of the Washington game when Briggs was injured.

    An overarching consideration was the problems playing out on the defensive line, which put both Bostic and Greene under heavy pressure. Their responses were not up to the level needed, although it is very questionable whether last season could be considered a referendum on the young linebackers, particularly Bostic.

    Offseason adjustments

    The biggest move came with the reassignment of McClellin to the linebacker’s corps, complete with a change from No. 99 to 50. The change takes his hand off the ground and returns him to the multi-role situation that was part of his success at Boise State.

    Bostic was worked at all three linebacker spots, effectively competing with both McClellin and Williams through OTA’s and minicamps, but was settling primarily at middle linebacker. The Bears re-signed Williams and established what was de facto a head-to-head position competition between the veteran and the new kid.

    But along with the position changes was the coaching switch from Tim Tibesar to Reggie Herring, with the latter’s experience in the NFL. Tibesar’s background was exclusively college and CFL (with Marc Trestman in Montreal) and the expectation is a better developmental curve for three players in particular who project as important parts of the future on defense.

    Herring has been emphatic in his endorsements of what he has seen from Bostic and McClellin, bringing some clarity to the latter’s job description.

    “Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic could’ve started for me at Dallas and Houston as [4-3] inside linebackers,” Herring said. “I don’t know what they’ll be doing in five years. They’re linebackers. They aren’t anything else.”

    He will not challenge immediately for one of the starting jobs but undrafted free agent Christian Jones from Florida State turned heads enough to be signed and adds a 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker with speed and size. A name to remember.

    Bostic, McClellin and Williams had strikingly similar numbers of snaps with the No. 1’s through the offseason. Bostic emerged with an edge at MLB in nickel packages and Williams the better with run personnel.

    Training camp will answer…

    …who ultimately plays where. The Bears see themselves as having four “starters,” beginning with Briggs as the only one with a set position. McClellin had the preponderance of time at strong-side linebacker in both nickel and standard packages, and Bostic took snaps everywhere And Williams was re-signed to be in the mix for the No. 1 MLB job, not play special teams.


    “After about the second week [of camp], we’ll settle in,” Herring said. “There’s a time for it, a process, but they’re all interchangeable.

    “D.J. could start at ‘Mike’ ‘backer. Lance obviously is a player and then Shea can start or ‘Sam’ or ‘Mike.’ That is what has happened through this process. We are developing confidence, they are developing confidence, we’re building depth. We’ve got to continue this through training camp.

    “I would say this, with his experience right now, [Williams] would be a guy we would feel comfortable with as a starter at Mike. But we also would feel comfortable with Bostic as a starter at ‘Will,’ Mike or Sam. And we would feel comfortable with Shea being a starter at Sam or Mike and then we have Lance who plays the will position.”

    Bostic the nickel MLB and Williams the “standard” MLB? Williams at MLB and Bostic at SLB with McClellin replacing Williams in nickel? All three in some packages? All of the above?

    Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker promised creative changes. Those will start at linebacker.…whether Shea McClellin can play. Every offseason indication is that he can, with quickness, speed and cover skills evident in ways they weren’t when he was a D-end.

    He was blunt about his disappointing first two seasons and GM Phil Emery took some responsibility for the organization slotting the 2012 first-rounder in a wrong position. But the past is past and McClellin, who was an effective pass rusher at Boise and on occasion as a Bears end, gets an entirely fresh start as a mix of cover, blitz and point-of-attack linebacker.

    “It’s a little bit of a change,” McClellin acknowledged. “I did it a lot in college and my whole career in high school. So the instincts are there and I’ve just to learn the concepts, the coaches and things like that.

    “As a player you’re going to do what they tell you to and I was fine with playing D-end. They wanted me to rush the passer and I think one of my strengths is rushing the passer. I was fine with it.”
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    This is kind of a follow up to what I just posted regarding DWill.

    "Moon" Mullin is suggesting here what I have been all along, that there should and actually will be 4 starting LBs in a rotation with Bostic perhaps as the swing man who can take on any one of the three spots and perform adequately. For now his highest and best use could be becoming the "Swiss Army Knife" at LB, spelling McClellin when we play him as a DE, replacing DWill in the "nickel" and even being the primary backup to Briggs should be get injured or need a rest.

    Herring himself seems to be favoring some kind of an approach like that which allows him to use the strengths of all four to his advantage. Although he favors DWill on running downs he seem to favor Bostic as a coverage guy and if McClellin shows he can cover as well maybe we see he and Bostic as the two LBs in some nickel packages and for he first time since becoming a starter Briggs takes some plays off. Hopefully there are enough snaps to satisfy all four because we really could use all four this year.

    I don't think Bostic and McClellin are quite ready to go it on their own without some significant "growing pains" that we don't need again this year. By having just one or the other playing in combination with the two vets I think both of them get a little better shot at adapting without needing to handle too much.

    The only question marks are Briggs and DWill especially since DWill has already expressed some dissatisfaction with the situation as it is and with playing as anything else other than a starter at MLB. Maybe it's time for Briggs to assert himself as a team captain and defensive leader and tell DWill to STFU and just play. We don't need any whiny, pouty little bitches playing MLB for the Chicago Bears. Tell him he has a legacy to uphold!
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
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  3. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Regarding DWill, I figure competition is a good thing. If he wants to be the starter then he needs to EARN it, and he'd better continue to earn it every week. He may not like that, but it's a team concept now. No more sense of "entitlement" or "privilege" or Camp Lovie where folks can loaf and still be starters because they're Lovie's buddies. Emery has provided a lot of high-level competition to push the starters. And that's good for the team.
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  4. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Yep, I've been very pleased with this combination of vets and younger players he's brought together on defense. When you're trying to heal the sick you might just as well have as much medicine on hand as you need and in this case that medicine is competition wherever needed.

    Screw what he was told back in April or what he thought he was told. Even the thing about McClellin doesn't ring true. They more less confirmed he'd be moved to LB long before that so maybe we can chalk that one up to hearing only what he wanted to hear.

    He's been supported verbally by both Emery and by Trestman in every way they possibly can and Trestman has declared him the starter at MLB going into camp so if that's not enough then it sounds to me like his immaturity is showing again. I wonder if he feels he isn't getting enough love from Herring and yet as it stands Herring singled him out as the best run stopper.

    I don't know. Based on his past this guy can be a little hard to figure out. He's bit like Brandon Marshall used to be so since the two of them along with Cutler were once teammates in Denver maybe they should have a little "all for one and one for all" talk with him. As much as we can use him and probably do want him in the mix I know Trestman and Emery won't be at all shy about letting him go if he doesn't "buy in" heart and soul. There's no longer any room for that on this team.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
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  5. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    If he is going to be a Cancer then just Can his ass. Yep, McC and Bostic will be playing a lot, all thats left is for Camp to decide how much. Hopefully DJ and Briggs will see getting off the field on some of the Nickels as a nice rest as they get older and will appreciate the rest. I know their pride wants them to be playing everydown but hopefully somebody will convinve them it keeps them fresher and it is a good thing all around. If DJ can not accept it then watch the waiver wires. I know thats another thread but all the positives on the team you do not need a Cancer now.
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  6. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    As much as they may not like it players like Allen, Ratliff, DWill and even Briggs need to learn to give way to others in the rotation. Those guys need some snaps too if they're gonna develop and the best way to get them is in small doses not by being thrown into the fire after injuries happen.

    Tucker and his staff did a truly shitty job of developing the younger talent last year and that can't continue. Spotting the young guys some snaps with the vets playing beside them will help a lot as far as how quickly and how well they learn to adapt to the game at this level.

    There's no reason to get bent out of shape. If this defense can pull off what it seems capable of they'll all get a chance at doing some damage and making some big plays. This isn't about any one player. It's about winning and you win as a team.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
  7. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    It seems like people are taking 1 comment way out of proportion. Nothing about it says he's not happy and is pissy pants. He said he wasn't fully aware of the situation which might have changed how he looked at other teams, BUT he's here and he's going to compete to win.

    Nothing says he's not buying in, or he's going to be a cancer. Good lord this is like when Forte held out and people were like trade him, sit him, we have Bush he'll be as good! Let's not over react. I wonder how the team will handle the back end of the LB squad though, Do they keep getting younger w/Greene and Jones or will one get cut/traded or PS'd to keep a guy like Sean who's a ST ace, but offers little in D play.

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