Pre-camp check: Linebacker

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by The Benjamin, Jul 3, 2014.

  1. The Benjamin

    The Benjamin George Halas Staff Member

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    • By Michael C. Wright | July 3, 2014 9:00:07 AM PDT
    With veteran minicamp coming to a close on Jun. 19, the Chicago Bears receive a much-needed break to recharge before the start of training camp in July at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

    During the team's time of inactivity, we'll take a position-by-position look at some of the expected training camp battles and dark horses to make the team:
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    AP Photo/David Drapkin
    Lance Briggs may be the only Bears linebacker who is guaranteed starting job.
    Linebacker overview: The coaching staff says two of the three starting spots are up for grabs with Will linebacker Lance Briggs as the only player assured of a gig with the No. 1 defense in 2014. Despite those openings, it appears that D.J. Williams will win the starting job at middle linebacker with Jon Bostic andShea McClellin competing for the start at Sam; a battle that is expected to be won by Bostic.

    Bears coach Marc Trestman considers Williams the frontrunner to win the starting middle linebacker position. But McClellin and Bostic have also taken reps there.

    "I'm just hoping he can be 100 percent. He's had an offseason to work, he's been out there competing hard, and when he's playing well, it's visibly noticeable in terms of what we can do with the middle linebacker position," Trestman said. "But we have competition there. He's certainly the lead dog there. But we do have competition."

    Battle to watch: The most compelling of the competitions at this position is certainly the one between Bostic and McClellin at Sam linebacker. Bostic probably projects more as a Will linebacker, but with Briggs already at that spot, the team could benefit greatly by having both players on the field at the same time. McClellin appears to have transitioned well from defensive end to linebacker, but it's unknown whether he possesses that run-and-hit skillset that is coveted by this team at the position. During organized team activities and minicamps, contact wasn't allowed. So it was difficult to get an idea of where McClellin might ultimately fit in the team's plans.

    "He's going to be a typical 4-3 linebacker for us," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "I see him as probably more of a blitzer than maybe a four-down rusher. But he will have some edge rush opportunities."

    So while it's likely Bostic will earn the start (he's clearly the most athletic linebacker on the roster), McClellin could find himself in some of the team's sub packages as an extra pass-rusher.

    Dark horse: Christian Jones receives this designation only because he went undrafted out of Florida State. During minicamps and organized team activities, Jones was impressive and could actually fight for time on the field if given a legitimate opportunity by the staff.

    A three-year starter at FSU, Jones started games at all three linebacker positions and defensive end, posting 151 tackles as a sophomore and junior. Jones moved to defensive end as a senior.

    "Where we're at is this: We've got a long of players that are committed to this franchise that are really working hard," Bears linebackers coach Reggie Herring said. "It's become competitive at every position. Every day they come and it's a fight, a battle. We've got a young Jones player from Florida State, who is doing an incredible job and flashes and shows he has a chance to be a good player. We are building depth here through competition and it's a process. How we end up here, we're developing a picture in our mind, but we're not ready to say because it is still a competitive situation when we get back to training camp. If you want me to prematurely tell you who I am dating and who I am marrying, I don't have the answer. We're still dating."

    Who makes the cut: If the Bears decide to keep six, count on Briggs, Bostic, Williams and McClellin to make the roster along with Jones and Khaseem Greene, who has shown improvement since last season. If the Bears go with seven linebackers, it's likely Jordan Senn makes the team because of his ability to contribute heavily on special teams.
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  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I'm still envisioning a rotation among the LBs. I feel that whether Bostic or McClellin wins the starting gig at SLB makes little difference. All four are likely to be used in different sets with Bostic possibly becoming a premier coverage LB and McClellin a Rosie Colvin type Rushbacker. As long as all four can stay healthy and Briggsy is back in form this is a good looking bunch.

    If they keep seven LBs they'll need to cut some place else. That means either 9 DL instead of 10 or 9 DBs instead of 10. Senn is such a great STeams guy and has enough experience to step in at WLB that I can't see them releasing him in favor of one of the younger guys. If they decide to stay with just 6 LBs I'm taking Jones over Greene. Although Jones would be PS eligible getting him through waivers would probably be risky.

    This unit needs to make a quantum leap in performance over where they were last year so anyone would gets playing time had better be 100% of the ball. There are no free lunches this year.
  3. tbear1

    tbear1 Veteran

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    We have some talent competing for the open spots. What i don't see yet is a leader that can be the field marshal that Urlacher was. Briggs may be the vet, but he doesn't seem to fit the mold. Hopefully one of the younger guys can be our guy but we may not have that player yet.
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  4. Xa0sG0rilla

    Xa0sG0rilla Veteran

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    Unfortunately, whomever that leader is, they FIRST need to be one heck of a player. Given how he only played 4 (?) games last year I have a hard time believing that Williams will stay healthy for the entire season. So we will probably find out how good our LBs are soon enough.
  5. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Herring says that Bostic is getting more comfortable in his knowledge of the defense and he is a bright guy who was the defensive play caller in college so if he eventually takes over at MLB I'd say he's the guy. Until then it looks like DWill should get the job because I agree with tbear. Briggsy is a great player but he's not exactly the Norman Einstein of defensive football as Joe Theismann would say.
  6. Bearstuff

    Bearstuff Yes, in the woods. Staff Member SuperFan

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    It's noteworthy that the only player Herring (LB coach) mentioned by name was Christian Jones. I think we start to see him play as the regular season progresses.

    And I'll put my money on Bostic starting at MLB. What we are doing this year, schematically, is exactly what he did in college. What we did last year (a stunted Lovie 2) was the polar opposite of what he did in college. I think that experience gave him some discipline and taught him to read plays a little better. I expect big things from him.
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  7. BearDownUnder

    BearDownUnder Veteran

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    I don't know. I think DJ wins the job and peforms well for us. Yes he's 31 about to be 32 but he's also had some plays off with suspensions and injuries and the torn pec is an injury that if healed fully shouldn't trouble him going forward.

    He's tough, smart and truly understands how to play MLB. I think he'll be very good for us if he stays healthy.

    All the young guys have talent and could be anything or nothing. But I expect Briggs and Williams to lead the linebackers and do a good job.
  8. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I'm going strictly on a hunch here but today I'm thinking Briggs/Will, DWill/Mike, Bostic/Sam and McClellin as a wild card LB they'll move around on blitzes and such. I also think Bostic becomes the nickel LB and DWill sits on passing downs. I really do see all four of them getting significant snaps and for the first time in years Briggs may not always be a 3 down player.

    I'm betting Christian Jones begins to show some big time NFL ability as the season progresses too. The kid has all kinds of athletic ability and a huge chip on his shoulder having not only fallen from a possible first round pick but out of the draft completely. He'll need to show up on coverage team in a big way and learn the fundamentals a little better but if Bostic takes over at MLB in 2015 then Jones could well be the guy who replaces Briggs and McClellin eventually becomes the full time SLB and there's your next set of Bears LBs.
  9. a_miljan

    a_miljan Veteran

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    2 important points IMO: hope Lance doesnt drop off dramatically (he showed signs last year) and im glad Greene is not mentioned too much because unfortunately he was not good last season. I see great stuff from Jones if we dont see his name in 'black' pages

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