The Chicago Bears experienced a setback in their linebackers unit last season, and they are primed for a rebound as they head into training camp.
The Chicago Bears played their first season without future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, and his leadership was missed as the unit took a big step back.
Jon Bostic, who is entering his second NFL season, replaced Urlacher at middle linebacker and started nine games. He showed great promise by finishing fifth on the team with 75 tackles. The former second-round pick is expected to be Urlacher’s long-term successor.
D.J. Williams will compete with Bostic for the starting middle linebacker job, and he is entering his contract year along with Briggs. Williams battled injuries last season and was out after Week 6, and he is nearing the end of his career at age 32.
Lance Briggs is entering the final year of his contract, and he appeared to be on the decline last season. He endured a shoulder injury, and his play dropped off completely when he was healthy. He was forced to miss nine games though. The Pro Bowl linebacker will look to make the most of his contract year, but he may not have very much left on his shelf life since he is 33.
Shea McClellin will convert to linebacker after being a bust at defensive end. Since he was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft, the Bears are not giving up hope on McClellin as a pass-rushing contributor. The ex-Boise State Bronco is expected to start opposite Briggs.
Khaseem Greene experienced natural rookie struggles, but he will likely see a bigger role in his second year. Jordan Senn and Christian Jones are also expected to compete for roster spots. Jones joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent, which may have been due to failing a drug test at the Combine.
Senn has been a special teams contributor for the Bears in recent years, but he is becoming expendable along with Jerry Franklin.
The upgrades on the defensive line will take pressure off of the linebackers, so they are also due for a bounceback year. Six or seven linebackers will likely make the Bears’ roster.