Chicago Bears 2015 Position Preview: Outside Linebacker

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David Bass

Has shown flashes of being a play-maker in limited snaps over the last two seasons. Bass is one of the few Bears D-linemen who are better off with the switch to a 3-4 scheme. He was under-sized as a 4-3 DE but is a more natural fit as an OLB in a 3-4. Bass has a good burst off the ball, solid football instincts, a good motor, and an explosive closing burst. He lacks the strength to set the edge vs the run and struggles in coverage, but neither should be an issue in Fangio’s scheme as the OLBs are primarily tasked with getting to the QB.

Cornelius Washington

Like Bass, Washington is better off in a 3-4 scheme. Washington has spent the last two seasons gaining weight (265) to play DE in a 4-3, but at his natural weight (250) Washington would be an ideal fit as a 3-4 OLB. He’s shown off his athleticism on special teams coverage units and was a beast in preseason, but couldn’t seem to get on the field as a DE because off struggles against the run. Washington has all the athletic tools to be a dominant pass rusher (4.55 speed, 35 bench reps, 39″ vert) and a switch to a 3-4 will allow him to focus on getting to the QB which is what he does best. Here is a quote about the former 6th round pick from draft analyst Mike Mayock:

“One of my favorite players. He’s a little bit one-dimensional. But you put him on the edge and ask him to hunt quarterbacks.”

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Kyle Woestmann

Ideal size for an OLB in Fangio’s scheme (6’3 | 253) and has superb football instincts. Woestmann rarely gets fooled on play fakes or misdirection and has a knack for being around the ball. Once there, he has textbook tackling form and the strength to bring down anyone he gets his hands on. His sack totals were disappointing as an OLB, but as a DE he showed strong hands with the ability to shuck blockers, a powerful enough bull rush to drive back SEC tackles, and the innate timing to get his hands in passing lanes. Woestmann’s best trait though is probably his non-stop motor which is an asset on any level and should translate well to special teams coverage units. He was also a leader on the field and team captain for the Commodores defense which seems like a trend among the Bears undrafted targets this year.

His lack of speed and explosiveness will make it challenging for Woestmann to earn a spot among an already crowded OLB depth chart in Chicago, but his power, motor, and elite football instincts give him a different skill-set than most of the Bears OLBs. The versatility to play with his hand on the ground or as a stand-up OLB will help Woestmann’s chances as new DC Vic Fangio will change the front seven alignment often during drives. Woestmann will probably have to excel on special teams to have a shot on the roster, but his motor and innate instincts should translate well there and potentially help a special teams unit that badly needs it.

The Bears new regime is not only trying to improve the talent on the field, but the leadership in the locker room as well which should help Woestmann’s chances. The more I watched Woestmann’s tape, the more I liked him. I don’t think he’s ever going to make a Pro Bowl, but depth is important and Woestmann is the type of high energy / good character bench player the Bears need more of among the bottom third of their roster.

Jamil Merrill

Was productive as a 3-4 DE his junior year with 5.5 sacks in a run-stopping role, but moved to OLB as a senior and eventually lost his starting job. Merrill has an explosive burst off the ball, uses his hands well to disengage from blockers, and has good closing speed. What Merrill lacks is size (6’3 | 255) to play DE and the speed (4.83) to play OLB at the NFL level. His speed could play if he can show good enough instincts at OLB, but Merrill is a long shot to be anything more than a practice squad body for the Bears this year.

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