Our series previewing the Chicago Bears training camp continues as we look at the linebackers unit. Will the new system help improve it?
We continue to preview the Chicago Bears before their scheduled start of training camp. Today, we take a look at the linebackers unit.
The defense now has a new system with a new coaching staff. No longer do the players have a 3-4 defensive scheme. Now, there is a 4-3 system.
In the 3-4, there are four linebackers. As you can imagine, there are now three linebackers in a 4-3 set. The two pass-rushing linebackers are now on the defensive line as ends. That means the linebackers have to be quicker to cover more ground.
With the need for quicker, more athletic linebackers on the field, general manager Ryan Poles had to make some changes. One of the first moves he made was to cut Popular player Danny Trevathan. That cut helped the Bears in the salary cap situation as well. Now Poles has more contract flexibility in the future.
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Players on the unit
The Bears still have their top linebacker on the roster, Roquan Smith, at least for now. He is in the option year of his rookie deal. He’s been among the best linebackers in the NFL so re-signing him is of the utmost importance for the Chicago Bears.
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In addition to Smith, the Bears also have Nicholas Morrow and Matt Adams penciled in as the starters. Behind them, they have Caleb Johnson, Noah Dawkins, and Jack Sanborn. Additionally, Joe Thomas, C.J. Avery, and Christian Albright will fight for a spot in the rotation.
This unit needs depth. Sanborn is an undrafted rookie free agent. Dawkins is a three-year player who only played in 17 career games. Johnson is a second-year player but was mostly on special teams last season. He only played on five snaps on defense.
Furthermore, there are questions about Adams. Three weeks ago he was arrested on gun charges and cited for having a high-capacity magazine and metal piercing bullets.
Adams is among three Bears players (Byron Pringle and David Moore are the others) who got arrested this offseason. The Bears have not cut any of them. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a leash the players have.
Without Adams, the linebackers unit is in deep trouble. It’s bad enough that the backups have little experience. It’ll be worse if one of them ends up having to start.
The only question on Smith this season is if the Bears get a contract ironed out before the season or drag it out until the offseason. Barring injury, he’ll continue to excel. Hopefully, he finally gets a Pro Bowl berth.
Morrow played for the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders for four seasons. He was playing mostly in a backup role there and now looks to thrive as a starter. He is athletic and fast so he complements Smith and fits well in this system.
Projections for the unit
It appears as if Smith switches to the weak-side linebacker spot. There, he’ll get more opportunities to make big plays. If he thrives, he’ll get a lot more attention from around the league. Also, he’ll put a lot more money in his pocket.
Morrow is the type of player Poles loves — a young, athletic player with a chip on his shoulder. He feels he should be a starter so now he has his chance. This is his chance to prove his doubters wrong.
Adams should be a pretty good strong-side linebacker. He is quick and athletic so when teams try to go away from Smith he’ll make plays himself. Let’s see if he makes the roster, however.
Poles should be looking at the waiver wire this preseason. There will be several salary cap cuts made. That means there will be quite a few good players available. Throw in the fact that the Chicago Bears have the second-highest salary cap space in the league this season and there is a good chance Poles picks up a good player to help a unit that desperately needs depth.
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