The Chicago Bears 2013 season is just days away from getting started with the annual pilgrimage to Bourbonnais for the start of training camp. There will be a lot of familiar faces, but there will also be some extreme changes. Some positions are undergoing an extreme makeover. In this 4-part series, we’ll look at the groups that will have the biggest change.
Next up in our Extreme Makeover series is the linebacker position. Unlike the tight end group, that got blown up because of a lack of performance and some character questions, the Bears tried to maintain continuity with the linebacker group but the winds of change are blowing.
Brian Urlacher wasn’t the same player he was and after the Bears and the other 31 teams in the league failed to ink him to a deal, he decided to retire. Nick Roach, who had spelled Urlacher in different stints, bolted the Bears via Free Agency.
The Bears made a few moves to shore up the linebacker position through multiple avenues. They signed veterans DJ Williams and James Anderson to step in immediately and shore up the middle and strong side linebacker spots. They drafted a couple of promising rookies in Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene with an eye towards the future.
To help take some pressure off the newcomers, veteran holdover Lance Briggs will be making the calls and getting everyone in the right spots. He’ll be counted on to take his typical Pro Bowl performance to yet another level.
The biggest question facing the linebackers is how quickly the newcomers adapt to the system. We took it for granted watching the Bears defense work in recent seasons. They were like the Patriots offense with Tom Brady or the old Colts under Peyton Manning. Everyone knows where to be and where they’re going. Losing Urlacher leadership and experience in the defense will be hard to replace. If Williams can fill that void, the Bears defense has a good chance to keep up where they left off in 2012. If the linebackers can’t adapt to this system, it could be like the seasons when Urlacher missed significant time and the Bears struggled to win games.
Projected Starters: Lance Briggs (WLB), DJ Williams (MLB) and James Anderson (SLB)
Rookie Watch: Jon Bostic will challenge DJ Williams to become the middle linebacker of the future while Khaseem Greene expects to challenge James Anderson for the strong side linebacker spot previously occupied by Nick Roach.
Bubble Watch: Blake Costanzo, Patrick Trahan, Jerry Franklin, JT Thomas, Lawrence Wilson will likely be competing for one spot if you assume the top 5 spots are pretty well set. The most important factor for the last linebacker on the roster will be the ability to play special teams. That would presumably give Costanzo the edge, but coming off a less than stellar 2012 season, he’ll have to fend off younger players with more potential upside.
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