Chicago Bears: Projecting the 2015 Defensive Starters

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Mason Foster, MLB1

Sep 14, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker

Mason Foster

(59) rushes against the St. Louis Rams during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The first of my two projections at starting MLB is another free agent signee from the offseason, Mason Foster.  A highly productive starter over the course of his first three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Foster had a down year in 2014 after Lovie Smith took over as head coach.  Of course we Bear fans are very familiar with Lovie and his trademark “Tampa-2” defense, but the return of both to Tampa Bay didn’t yield positive results for Foster.

After playing in 47 of 48 games during the first 3 years of his career with 44 starts, Foster played in only 10 in 2014 due to shoulder and Achilles injuries. While being nicked up and attempting to learn a new scheme, his production dropped, but a change of scenery could be exactly what the doctor ordered to get Mason back on track.

At one time forming perhaps the most dynamic young LB tandem in the league alongside Lavonte David in Tampa Bay, Foster has the speed and athleticism to be a high-impact player on this Bears defense.  Fangio’s exploits have become gospel and we’re all buying into it, so the belief is that he can take a promising talent in Foster and get him back to functioning at maximum level.

Christian Jones, MLB2

Nov 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears inside linebacker

Christian Jones

(59) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Last year’s #59, then-rookie Christian Jones out of Florida State, is my pick to line up next to Foster in the middle of the defense.  Per the current Chicago Bears roster, Foster is #53, so apparently Jones is keeping the number.  We’ll see if any deals are made during training camp and they change numbers, but for now that’s the plan.

Beyond the minor issue of what digits will appear on his jersey is the fact that the Bears may have themselves a major steal in rising 2nd-year player Christian Jones.  A suspension for violating team rules his senior year at FSU combined with a failed drug test at the 2014 NFL Combine caused the talented prospect to go undrafted, and Phil Emery took a chance on signing him as a free agent.

Jones appeared in all 16 games in 2014 with 5 starts, accumulating 69 total tackles (41 solo, 28 assists) with 2 sacks and a fumble recovery.  He has the requisite athleticism to be a significant impact player and the character concerns that had teams avoiding him in the draft for now are in the rearview mirror.  He is a rising talent who could be the story of this year’s defense if his ascension continues.

Nov 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears inside linebacker Jon Bostic (57) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Also in the mix…

Competition is set to be fierce for both ILB and OLB, and left off my projected starters are two names we know well from the previous regime: Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin.  It is not at all out of the realm of possibility that the former 2nd and 1st round picks, respectively, will prove me incorrect and win a starting spot.

It’s also possible that they, along with a handful of other linebackers on the roster, could be tried at one spot and moved to another in an attempt to identify where they fit best.  This possibility seems greater for McClellin who is initially being tried at MLB, but could be shifted outside.

From the time Bostic destroyed San Diego WR Mike Willie in a 2012 preseason game, I’ve been a fan of his potential and have had high hopes for him going forward.  It’s been a tough couple of years since then under the Trestman/Tucker regime, but under Fangio he has a chance to bounce back.

Next: And Finally, the Guys Up Front