As it turns out, the Bears’ inside linebacker situation is a great litmus test for how you feel about the team in general. Roquan Smith is done for the year, and Danny Trevathan isn't ready to return yet. The Bears will likely have to win out with Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis, and while that was certainly never the plan, it also may not be the disaster that many think.
“It’s unfortunate with some of the injuries that we’ve had this year,” Matt Nagy said on Monday. “But it’s a part of the game. It’s a physical game. I just like the fact that our coaches are preparing our depth guys to come in. It’s no slight on the other guys — the depth of guys that are coming in and playing, we like that.”
The Bears coaches, particularly on defense, have raved all year about the depth across all three levels. How Kwiatkoski and KPL – both UFA’s after the season – play is quietly one of the more important storylines in a stretch drive not lacking for narrative substance.
“I think they both can do the jobs,” inside linebackers coach Mark Deleone said. “There’s a perception about Kwit, and I think he’s shown that he has coverage skills. He’s done really well this year when we’ve put him in those situations. I feel comfortable with both of them. They play different positions, but they do a lot of the same jobs.”
Though he’s only appeared in seven games, Nick Kwiatkoski’s overall grade (79.8), per Pro Football Focus, is already the fourth-highest on the Bears' defense.
“He’s productive,” Deleone said. “Every single game he’s played serious minutes in, he’s made a lot of plays. Good linebackers make tackles, and he’s made a lot when he’s played.”
The only players with higher PFF scores? Sherrick McManis, Khalil Mack, and … Kevin Pierre-Louis. After logging the second-most snaps (46) of his 68-game career, KPL was PFF’s highest-graded player on the Bears’ defense.
“It’s not college anymore, where certain players supposedly have to do everything,” he said on Monday. “We have the right pieces, so I just have to make sure I do my job, and the rest of the team is going to have my back.”