Bears Rookie ILB John Timu Gets his Chance


Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

My favorite undrafted free agent signing, Bryce Callahan, has proven he can contribute at the NFL level and now my 2nd favorite, John Timu, may be getting a chance to prove himself as well. This week the Bears released veteran DL Ziggy Hood and promoted ILB Timu from the practice squad.

You may remember Timu from the preseason when he was one of the stars of the Bears reserves unit with multiple big plays including a sack, tackle for loss, 2 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions (one of which was overturned by review).

Timu played very well in the preseason, showing the ability to stuff the run, pressure the QB, and make instinctive plays in coverage. His strong play in the preseason and uncertainty at the Bears ILB position helped make Timu a surprise addition to the Bears opening day 53-man roster.

Timu’s play in the preseason was similar to the production that he showed at Washington where he was their leading tackler and 2-time team captain on a team that had four defensive players drafted in the first 44 picks of the 2015 draft (Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, Shaq Thompson, Kikaha Hau’oli). Despite his impressive college production (338 tackles), Timu’s 4.80 40-time dropped him out of draftable range. I still think the Bears got a steal and I’m excited about seeing what Timu can do against legit NFL talent.

Timu spent the first four weeks of the NFL season on the Bears active roster but was limited to just special teams coverage units and was released as a causality of the Bears giving up a few early season TD returns. Since then he’s been toiling away on the Bears practice squad despite the struggles of the Bears ILB unit this season.

The Bears ILBs have been sub-par all season, but it was embarrassing how easily Redskins TE Jordan Reed picked apart the Bears inside linebacker coverage last week (9 | 120 | 1), which is one of the reasons that the Bears are finally giving Timu a shot.

DC Vic Fangio continues to support Shea McClellin verbally, but his play hasn’t warranted it and Fangio’s praise could have more to do with a player who has admitted to confidence issues. Fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Anderson has made his share of flash plays, but also has made plenty of mistakes the last few weeks. Christian Jones has potential, but has been taken off the field on passing downs due to coverage issues the last few weeks. The Bears just don’t have an ILB they can leave on the field for three downs without exposing a weakness.

Can Timu be the 3-down ILB the Bears need? He’s a long shot as an undrafted free agent, but just a season ago he never left the field as the captain and play-caller on one of the best defenses in college football. Timu’s instincts are what set him apart from his competition among his Bear teammates at ILB. He may be a step slow, but his ability to read offensive plays, shed blockers, attack the line of scrimmage, and anticipate routes give him a shot to be a long-term answer at ILB for the Bears.

The Bears are certainly not picking an easy week for Timu to make his debut at ILB. Timu will have his hands full trying to contain Vikings RB Adrian Peterson as well as cover TE Kyle Rudolph who has become one of Teddy Bridgewater’s safety-valve options. It’s a tough match-up for any ILB, but with McClellin’s persistent tackling struggles and Anderson’s recent issues in coverage, it’s a chance for Timu to prove that he is a better option than either for the 2016 season.