Pass rushing by individuals was effective in spots, although multiple sacks came from linebackers (Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young) in de facto roles as ends as the Bears were schemed by multiple opponents into heavy use of nickel personnel.
McPhee’s knee problems through a wet blanket over one of the franchise’s key offseason moves, with McPhee flashing with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss even with a balky knee that should improve after offseason surgery and him dropping a few pounds to play at a lighter weight. But McPhee was an emotional leader even in his diminished physical state, and he was voted a team captain as an indicator of his leadership.
“He brings it, Pernell brings it every day,” said Sam Acho. “He brings it to practice on Mondays, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays even on Tuesdays our off days he watches film and you can tell that he watches film because when we get out to practice he almost knows the plays that are coming before they come.”
Willie “Don’t call me a linebacker” Young figures in the plans and Houston joined Young in any consideration for comeback player of the year.
“He’s picked up the outside linebacker, in my opinion, very well,” said coach John Fox. “Was it different for him? Yes, because he spent the early part of his career with his hand in the dirt consistently. He still does a lot of that for us as far as playing an end in the 4-3 and we’re in the 4-3 probably more than we are in the base, because of nickel and substitute defenses… .
“He’s definitely got the ability to do it. I think he’s done a good job and I think he’ll just continue to improve.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
But the Bears have a decision to make on Houston and his cap hit of nearly $7 million next season. Do not look for the Bears to have Houston back at that price, but Young has another year on his contract and has emerged as a team leader.
Acho failed to provide a single sack, was respectable in handful of games but was too often invisible as an edge rusher or stout at the point.
Inside linebacker was low-impact virtually all season and projects to be one of the most overhauled group on the roster. Christian Jones and Shea McClellin were day one starters but failed to flash enough for what aspires to be an elite defense, coordinator Vic Fangio’s support of McClellin notwithstanding. John TImu and Jonathan Anderson provided some depth but are not starter-grade linebackers. The position will be a priority in the 2016 draft.
Moon's LB Grade: D