Bears Depth Chart: Outside Linebacker

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Position Battle (Starter): Pernell McPhee was the first big free agent signing of the Ryan Pace regime and for the first half of the season it looked like a steal. McPhee was disruptive against both the run and pass and gave the Bears an edge player that opposing teams had to game plan for. He also added leadership, toughness, and energy to a defense that sorely needed it.

A knee injury sapped McPhee’s effectiveness the 2nd half of the season, but if healthy he’s the best OLB the Bears have on the roster. Again assuming health, McPhee is a lock for one of the starting OLB positions.

The OLB position opposite McPhee is where the position battle comes into play. Lamarr Houston spent the early part of the season recovering from a serious ACL injury, but was the Bears best pass rusher the 2nd half of the season with 8 sacks and more pressures than any other Bear. He proved that he can be an effective stand-up pass rusher and if still healthy could provide a powerful edge rusher across from McPhee.

Most analysts figured Willie Young wouldn’t be able to make the switch from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB and I had my doubts as well, but he had a stretch in the 2nd half where he recorded 5.5 sacks over five games. Young got better as the season went on. He proved he could get to the QB whether his hand was on the ground or he was clearing the edge as a stand-up OLB. Young is under a team-friendly contract and could parlay his late season productivity into a double-digit sack season in 2016.

So basically the starting OLB job across from McPee comes down to Young vs Houston. Young has more polished pass-rush moves, but is slow off the ball for an OLB. Houston is a very similar player who relies on power more than speed. All three of the Bears OLBs rely on power more than speed, which is a bit redundant and creates the need for an explosive speed rusher, which is one reason the Bears traded up in the draft for Leonard Floyd.

Next: Position Battle (Back-ups)