Chicago Bears Training Camp Preview: Middle Linebackers

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22: Danny Trevathan
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22: Danny Trevathan /

With the Bears officially reporting to training camp in Bourbonnais, Illinois it’s time to begin previewing each of the Bears individual positional groups on the roster. Today, we look at ILB.

We’ve already previewed quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and cornerbacks.

Since 2016, Ryan Pace has done a great job of rebuilding the Bears inside linebacker corps. It all started with the free agent signings of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, with the addition of Nick Kwiatkoski in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Just two years later, Pace decided to once again overhaul the position and drafted Roquan Smith and Joel Iyiegbuniwe.

Now, on paper, the Bears appear to have one of the best inside linebacker corps in the league.

2017 Inside Linebackers:

  • Jonathan Anderson
  • Jerrell Freeman
  • Christian Jones
  • Nick Kwiatkoski
  • Danny Trevathan
  • John Timu

Going into 2017, there were three main players from the names listed above that seemed to have fans excited. Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan, and Nick Kwiatkoski each brought something unique to the Bears.

Unfortunately, Freeman was injured during week one, while Trevathan was limited to just 12 games due to injuries or suspensions. Then there’s Nick Kwiatkoski, who seemed to flash future starter potential, but just did too little too late.

While this was a group that was solid a year ago, it could have been better. Other guys such as John Timu and Christian Jones did make a few solid plays at times, but not quite enough to for one to say that the team won’t need to address the position in the future.

With that said, what is to expect out of the Bears Inside Linebackers in 2018?

2018 Linebackers:

  • Jonathan Anderson
  • Joel Iyiegbuniwe
  • Nick Kwiatkoski
  • Roquan Smith
  • John Timu
  • Danny Trevathan
  • Josh Woods

Unlike other positions such as wide receiver, on paper one can easily determine who makes the final cut for this team.

Due to veteran leadership, Danny Trevathan will almost certainly make the roster. However, aside from Trevathan, it’s all likely to be players who have been Ryan Pace draft picks.

The Bears could easily decide to carry four Inside Linebackers. Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Joel Iyiegbuniwe. With Trevathan and Smith projected to be the starters, Kwiatkoski and Iyiegbuniwe make serviceable backups. Kwiatkoski shows a knack for making plays while Iyiegbuniwe brings the ability to fly from sideline-to-sideline.

A Look Ahead to 2019

In a league such as the NFL, it’s never too late to start looking into the future. Once the 2019 offseason commences, the Bears will need to once again begin looking at their Middle Linebacker core.

According to Spotrac, veteran Danny Trevathan’s contract expires after the conclusion of the 2019 season. The option to keep Trevathan will always exist, but at the same time, the Bears could decide that Kwiatkoski or Iyiegbuniwe are ready to start.

No doubt, Trevathan’s days in Chicago may be numbered. If one of the younger players, especially Nick Kwiatkoski can step up in 2018, then it’s easy to see Trevathan becoming a free agent after the 2019 season.

Another disadvantage of Trevathan is his age. Once his current contract expires, he will 30 years old. However, Nick Kwiatkoski will be just 27 years old.

One the of biggest advantages of signing Kwiatkoski is that he will come much cheaper than Trevathan when it’s time to start talking contract extensions. At this point, Kwiatkoski looks like someone who can be a stud and be had on a bargain deal. 


Inside Linebacker can be the biggest strength on the Bears roster. However, one thing this group must do is communicate better for the defense to play better as a whole. Sometimes, middle linebackers are referred to as the quarterbacks of the defense. If guys like Trevathan and Smith can display the ability to interact effectively, it won’t be a surprise for the Bears defense to be a top-ten unit for the second straight season.