Chicago Bears 2016 Position Preview: Inside Linebacker

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Chicago Bears enter into year two of their rebuild, there are a lot of decisions to be made on who will be part of the team moving forward. 2015 was a rough season for the Bears, but despite a 6-10 record they were more competitive than they were in 2014 and some players stepped up and became possible building blocks for the future.

At the Bears post-season press conference head coach John Fox identified rookies Adrian Amos and Eddie Goldman as future building blocks on defense and also mentioned the offense being built around Jay Cutler next year, but who else is part of the Bears plan for the future?

Everyone expected there to be difficulties in transitioning to a new defensive scheme, but the Bears might not have had a weaker position overall than inside linebacker. Over the course of the season the Bears started five different players¹ at the ILB position in different combinations, but no pairing stood out as difference makers. Some players were solid against the run but struggled against the pass, others the opposite, and then there was Shea McClellin who sucked at both.

I’ll be breaking down the Bears ILBs below who are either building blocks, questionable to be on the Bears roster in 2016, or likely to be looking for a new team this off-season. You can check out the rest of my position previews along with my free agent targets and positional draft rankings below:

Bears position previews: QB | DL | RB

Bears free agent options: QB | DL | RB

Draft rankings: QB | 3-4 DE | RB

2016 Bears Position Preview: Inside Linebacker

Building Blocks:

Jonathan Anderson – He didn’t perform much better than the rest of the Bears ILBs last year, but Anderson has two advantages over his competition at the position. Anderson can cover running backs out of the backfield and tight ends in the flat or seam and he’s also the best special teams player out of the current ILB group.

With NFL offenses becoming more pass heavy every year, sub-package LBs are becoming more valuable and that is a perfect fit for Anderson’s skill-set. He has borderline 4.5 speed which allows him to stay with running backs and some slot receivers and Anderson is tall enough (6’3) to match-up with most tight ends.

Considering that Anderson didn’t even start his senior year of college, his rookie year with the Bears was an overwhelming success. He made the team with a strong performance in the Bears final preseason game (2 sacks, 2 TFLs, 2 PDs), then spent the first half of the season on the practice squad until injuries gave Anderson a chance to play.

He made an impact right away with an interception in his first start and a 2nd INT in the end zone that was controversially over-ruled by official review. Two games later Anderson led the Bears with 12 tackles and played with an aggression that starting ILBs McClellin and Jones lacked all season.

For the season Anderson had 34 tackles, a sack, and an interception in just three starts. He also added value on special teams and by the end of the season had replaced starter Christian Jones in sub packages. The ILB position will be one of the Bears biggest needs in the off-season, but Anderson’s coverage skills, blitzing instincts, and special teams value should keep him in the mix for playing time regardless of who the Bears add in the off-season.