Bears inside linebacker jobs in short supply


Bears inside linebacker jobs in short supply

Fourth in a series 

Who’s in: Sam Acho, Mason Foster

Where do they fit? Jonathan Bostic. Khaseem Greene, Christian Jones, Shea McClellin

Changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense ostensibly creates more job opportunities for linebackers. What the Bears have done this offseason, however, suggests that the new general manager and coach don’t necessarily view the returning options as what they need.

The Bears’ signing of Sam Acho from the Arizona Cardinals ostensibly added an outside linebacker with pass rushing on his resume. But Acho is 257 pounds and a physical presence as well, and coach John Fox is expected to play his four best linebackers regardless of position, and Acho as well as Pernell McPhee are not likely to be lining up at only one spot.

[MORE - Bears clearly thinking 'outside' the box at linebacker]

Which portends real pressure on 2014 starters to find playing time. If Acho, McPhee and Lamarr Houston are ticketed for linebacker roles, and the Bears also signed inside linebacker Mason Foster from Tampa Bay, then…?

The Bears’ Game 16 starting three linebackers now are effectively in a competition for one job opening. Jonathan Bostic, Christian Jones and Shea McClellin will be competing with Foster, a physical inside linebacker, ironically from Lovie Smith’s 4-3 at Tampa Bay.

Foster ended up with the Bears after some conversations with other teams, and he may be coming in on a mission after receiving just a one-year contract from the Bears and nothing better from anyone else.

“[Foster] is a guy who I think I liked coming out [in 2011],” said coach John Fox. “Obviously I’ve evaluated him on his pro tape. But right now, these guys who maybe didn’t get the huge contracts in free agency, my experience is they have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. They’ve got something to prove. And I’ve had a lot of pretty good one-year deals that have had great success.

“So he’ll get a chance to prove that. We’re building some competition at the linebacker position. So I’m looking forward to working with him… I’ve never watched him practice with us or “in our scheme.” But I’m looking forward to watching him compete and seeing what he can do for the Chicago Bears”

Bostic was ticketed for the outside in the former 4-3, while Jones and McClellin already were edge rushers. Jones had two sacks last season, McClellin one, Bostic zero.

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“Sometimes I feel like the ability to play in space is important for a 3-4 outside linebacker,” Pace said. “But if you had a pie chart, it’s actually kind of a small slice. The most important thing is the ability to rush the passer and then set the edge. Yeah, he can drop and play in space, that’s good, but primarily he’s just dropping out and covering the flat.”

Coaches are withholding public comment on exactly where some people will be stationed. And where some start out may not be where they finish.

McClellin will be embarking on his third different job quest in four years and he now needs to impress a third set of coaches in his short career. He was unsuccessful as a hand-on-the-ground end and only marginally more so as an outside linebacker. As far as his eventual position, “We don’t really know,” Fox said. “The biggest success I saw in him when he came out of Boise State was as a 3-4 outside backer.

“It hasn’t gone as well for him as far as position fit. In fairness to him, that’s not to be judgmental on anybody else, but I think the transition is we’re going to start him inside because it’s a harder position to learn as far as run fits and how they set in there. But he’ll be both. So we don’t really have a position per se for him. A linebacker is a linebacker. So he’ll get the opportunity to compete at both. But more than likely, we’ll start him inside.”

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks finally earned the recognition he deserved in 2018 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and playing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense provided the national attention he should have received in his first two years with the Bears.

He’s a solid interior pass rusher, but where he dominates is in run defense, leading the NFL in run stops last season according to Pro Football Focus.

When Hicks beats an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to make a big tackle in the backfield, it’s a work of art, and he revealed the secret to those flashy plays on NFL Game Pass.

He broke down the film of a play against the Green Bay Packers where he beats center Corey Linsley because he knew right guard Jordan McCray was going to pull to the left.

“I read it before the snap happens. I know that McCray is going to pull just based off his stance,” Hicks said. “I know his stance for every play that he’s going to do. I’m going to be at least 75 percent right.”

Hicks looks at how much weight an offensive lineman is putting on his hand, how far apart his legs are and how much bend is in his hips.

“If you do your due-diligence as a defensive lineman and prepare like a professional during the week, you’re going to know,” Hicks said.

Any little deviation from a normal stance is an indicator to Hicks of what the play is going to be, and that pre-snap knowledge keeps him a step ahead of the blocker in front of him.

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Vegas sets Mitchell Trubisky’s pass TD total at 26.5


Vegas sets Mitchell Trubisky’s pass TD total at 26.5

If Mitchell Trubisky has the kind of break out year in his second season under Matt Nagy that Bears fans are hoping for, he should have no problem cashing an OVER 26.5 passing TDs ticket for bettors who want to back him.

Per Bet Chicago, Caesars is rolling out division props and they set Trubisky’s touchdown pass total for 2019 at 26.5 and his pass yard total at 3,744.5.

While both those marks would be career highs for Trubisky, this number will surely be seen as a slight by the hometown fans and continue to add to the polarizing nature of the quarterback formerly known as the Pretty Boy Assassin.

In Chicago, and if you’re team Mitch, this number is ridiculously low and you’re probably already pounding the over.

Outside of Chicago, and with some analytical support, there’s a lot of doubt about Trubisky’s future as a viable option as an NFL starter, so I’d guess the Pro Football Focus crowd is probably gonna take the under.

We rolled out some props of our own on the Under Center podcast last week including:

Will Mitch Trubisky pass for 10 or more touchdowns than Craig Kimbrel has saves? (Including playoffs for both)

26.5 regular season passing touchdowns probably gives Kimbrel the edge, but it’s right in range. 

And that Trubisky – Kimbrel prop prompted this bold response from our own Bears insider JJ Stankevitz:

I don’t think I’m in the 40 club with my guy JJ, but the OVER certainly feels like the move here. At least it better be if the Bears are gonna make any sort of NFC North title defense.