July and August are fun months for football fans. It's the time of year when we predict season records and evaluate which teams have the best starting lineups. But all of those predicted wins and the depth chart breakdowns rarely come to fruition because of one harsh reality in the NFL: injuries.
The teams that are the best prepared to deal with injuries, those with good depth, are the ones that often stay in the playoff mix the longest. For the Bears, their depth at inside linebacker was a critical factor in their ability to stay afloat in 2019. Nick Kwiatkoski's impressive play off the bench (for both Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan) resulted in a big payday from the Raiders in free agency. But now that he's gone, does Chicago have anyone to replace him?
The answer could lie in Joel Iyiegbuniwe, the former 2018 fourth-round pick. It'd be a huge leap of faith by the Bears, considering Iyiegbuniwe has played just 27 snaps on defense over the last two seasons (including a whopping three in 2019, per Pro Football Focus). We simply don't know who he is as a pro despite his strong college tape as a rangy linebacker who packs a punch.
Consider this fact: The Bears haven't added an inside linebacker in free agency or the 2020 NFL draft. It's just Iyiegbuniwe and Josh Woods. Maybe Barkevious Mingo? His fit is on the edge, but he could probably log a few snaps inside at this point in his career too.
The Bears' depth will be tested this season, especially with the unpredictability of COVID-19. Backups will be more important than they probably ever have been, which is why a player like Iyiegbuniwe has to rise to the occasion and give the Bears another talented and ascending option at linebacker.