Chicago Bears 2016 Position Preview: Inside Linebacker

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /


Christian Jones – It was a disappointing season for Jones, who was one of the Bears best rookies in 2014. He began the 2015 season as the Bears starting inside linebacker and ended it as a healthy scratch. After flashing potential as a 4-3 OLB as a rookie, Jones really struggled to pick up the ILB responsibilities in Fangio’s hyrbid 3-4 scheme. He looked lost at times, played tentatively, and was a liability in coverage.

Jones has enough talent that most analysts thought he would be a late day 2 pick in the 2014 draft, before an unconfirmed failed drug test at the combine dropped him out of the draft completely. It’s possible that another year in Fangio’s scheme will be enough for Jones’ natural ability to show at ILB. Or he may just not be a good fit and could be released by a Bears regime that has no ties to him.

Personally, I hope they give Jones another year to learn the defense. Right now he’s the most physically gifted ILB on the team and has the skill-set to flourish as an ILB if he can pick up the scheme.

John Timu – One of my favorite of the Bears UDFAs, due to his aggression verse the running game and good football instincts. He’s slow, which we all saw when Timu was asked to cover running backs and tight ends, but actually has great instincts in zone coverage. It was a strength of Timu’s in college and if the game slows down for him a little, it could at least be a neutral skill at the NFL level.

Timu’s ability as a run stopper in college translated well to the pros as he led the Bears in tackles in two of his three starts.  His run instincts put him around the ball more often then not, he has the strength to shed blockers, he diagnoses plays quickly, and attacks the line of scrimmage with confidence.

Depending on who the Bears bring in at ILB, Timu could be in the mix to play significant snaps next season. If the Bears don’t have a clear upgrade on the roster, Timu could play ILB in base packages while Anderson replaces him in sub-packages. Whether he ends up starting or not, Timu’s contributions on special teams and leadership qualities give him a chance to secure a spot on the 2016 Bears roster.

Lamin Barrow – Didn’t make much of an impact for the Bears last season, but was drafted in 2014 by the Denver Broncos in John Fox’s last season. The Bears snatched him off Denver’s practice squad as soon as he was demoted and Barrow contributed on special teams the 2nd half of the season.

Backup LBs are the backbone of most NFL special teams units and Barrow could make his impact there even if he never sees the field on defense. Whether or not Barrow makes the final roster probably depends on how much talent the Bears bring in at the ILB position this off-season.