A look at the state of the Bears’ linebackers as the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaches.
The Good: Perhaps no position on the team seems as boom or bust as the Bears linebackers. At first glance, it doesn’t appear the Bears have made great strides toward improving a position that had such problems in 2013. Then again, injuries — which are an unpredictable phenomenon — were a major cause of the dysfunction on the second level of the Bears defense. Starting the season healthy, this unit has the potential to be really solid. Lance Briggs leads the defense and was having arguably one of his best seasons as a pro last year before going down with a shoulder injury. He still has a few good years of top-notch play left in him. D.J. Williams returns to anchor the middle of the field. Again, Williams was blossoming as a newbie on the team before he, too, went down with an injury. Williams is a dependable veteran leader who has played a lot of good football in his career — again, when healthy. The strong-side linebacker position is a little less clear, but a little more intriguing given the training camp battle set to take place. Jon Bostic, who received a lot of playing time last year due to the injuries, will battle with defensive end-turned-linebacker Shea McClellin, who is in top shape after a rigorous workout routine this offseason. Competition breeds success, and the Bears are hoping for that out of these two youngsters.
The Bad: The “bust” part of the boom or bust scenario is that the Bears do not have great depth at the linebacker position and if Briggs and/or Williams goes down again with an injury, the Bears will be mighty thin at the position. Bostic was not good in pass defense and McClellin has not seen time at linebacker in the NFL, although he’s played with his hand off the ground a few times. The good news is that whichever one of these players is the starter, he’ll be off the field in passing downs, anyway, as the nickelback will step in to take his place. Khaseem Greene returns for his second season but has a ways to go and is probably better suited to be a special teamer. The Bears, although in need of a safety and more help along the defensive line, should not discount in the draft a linebacker who can make plays.