Looking at the Bears linebacking core the one thing that stands out is the athleticism from the first guy to the last. Lance Briggs may actually be the least athletic of the bunch, and we all know how athletic he is. It’s also a tough hard hitting group. Shea McClellin probably is the least violent tackler of the core, and he is the guy who broke Aaron Rodgers collar bone. With indication this will be a defense that has multiple roles for every player that means the linebackers will be more involved at the line of scrimmage, and in the pressure schemes along with coverage responsibility. This requires the athletic ability to have the agility and speed to turn and run with receivers, and the strength to take on blockers of all kinds to blitz the quarterback, and stop the run. I feel this group has that in them. This will also come into play on the special teams unit. Aside from Briggs and perhaps Mclellin.
The decision to invest team resources heavily into the defensive line will pay dividends all around as I elaborated on in my previous blog here. But is no more true than with this linebacking group. If this group reaches it’s potential, and improves it’s game situation awareness to allow them to be more instinctive and reactive rather than have to think every thing out from scheme to technique, the sooner they’ll be able to play aggressively as they’ll be less hesitant and be able to attack full speed with confidence and assurance. The Defensive line will help in this by working in concert with the linebackers to take on blockers to allow the linebackers behind them to come unscathed and make the tackle, pressure, or sack. It also helps them in coverage when the Defensive line gets pressure on the quarterback forcing throws sooner than they’d like, or getting them to the ground not even allowing a throw at all.
Of course every level of the defense works in concert with each other to achieve their objective. That’s not a profound statement. However it’s important to note how a maligned portion of the defense will improve from within. Unlike the Defensive line and the secondary there were no big changes to the linebacking group from the outside other than signing Christian Jones as an un-drafted free agent. There was the big switch of McClellin to linebacker though which to most who have been paying attention was inevitable and something that should have been done much much sooner. I feel that this group was put in a terrible position last season. After all the injuries they had to the unit as well as the devastation that occurred to the defensive line, and not to mention losing one of the defenses leaders in the secondary, the young draft picks from last season’s draft Jon Bostic, and Khaseem Greene were flung into a lion’s den without the necessary weapons needed to survive. Many have swept them under the rug, and deemed them busts already, but that is irresponsible and over-reactionary thinking. I feel this season will prove to show just how good those two are and will be in the Bears future.
Bears newest linebacker Christian Jones may be un-drafted, but he will likely make the team. It’s very possible he actually wins the SAM LB spot. He has all the physical tools to play there. The temperament, the size, and the edge needed to play the power side of the field. The competition will be fierce. McClellin also will compete on that side as well as the middle with Bostic, and veteran D.J. Williams. Greene will also compete for the Sam backer job. Regardless of how the starter positions sort themselves out all will be involved in a series of rotations, and sub packages. I think the speed and athleticism along with the hard hitting ability of this group will be one of the highlights of this Bears season in a season with much to watch, and be entertained by. Linebackers are like wild stallions. They are not meant to be stabled and controlled. They are meant to run free, and with fury. A defense that allows that to happen will benefit greatly from the stable of stallions this team has assembled. It’s one of the more anticipated area’s of the team for me to watch. A linebacking core is the backbone of every defense, and I anticipate it will be for the Bears defense once again.