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.”

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout is quickly becoming an icon in American sports. The two-time American League MVP is enjoying another dominant season batting .335 with 23 home runs and 48 RBI.

On Tuesday, he took a swing at what Bears fans may consider a shocking NFL prediction.

“I’ve got the Browns having a better record than the Bears,” Trout told a radio reporter, according to the Los Angeles Times. Trout's comments were made in response the reporter "talking up" Chicago.

Both the Browns and Bears have had productive offseasons that involved headline-grabbing acquisitions on offense. Cleveland drafted QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, traded for WR Jarvis Landry, signed RB Carlos Hyde and drafted a backfield mate for him in Georgia's Nick Chubb. They added potential lockdown corner Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick, too. Add all that to a motivated Josh Gordon ready to contribute for a full season, and there's good reason to be excited in Cleveland.

Still, it's hard imagining Trout can be that confident in a team that's won only one game over the last two seasons. And let's not forget what GM Ryan Pace has done this offseason, one that's been praised by analysts from all corners of the NFL universe. From new coach Matt Nagy to free-agent WR Allen Robinson and all the skill players in between, the Bears are ready to make a legitimate run in the NFC North.

Trout doesn't strike out much in the major leagues, but this prediction feels like it could be a back-straining whiff.

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is former Bears star Matt Forte going to be the team’s new running backs coach?

For now, that’s Charles London’s job, who was hired to head coach Matt Nagy’s staff earlier this year.

But on Tuesday night, Forte tweeted that he would like a coaching spot with Chicago sometime in the near future.

Serving as evidence, the now-retired running back responded to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which announced the Broncos’ hiring of former linebacker Demarcus Ware as a “pass-rush consultant on a part-time basis.” Forte tweeted at the Bears, saying that he is “available” to take on a similar role to Ware’s new Denver gig.

Forte’s tweet was relatively cryptic, and he never specified exactly what type of job he would want with the Bears. After finishing up a storied career this past season and solidifying his name as a Bears legend, Forte has proven that he could easily coach young running backs or even wide receivers at some point.

But isn’t this all just a joke?

Forte silenced the doubters by tweeting “I wasn’t joking” as a response to an article saying that his desire for a new occupation with the Bears was simply a gag. The former workhorse was also intrigued by a fan’s tweet asking “Coach Forte??”

The mere thought of having Forte back in Chicago with the Bears’ coaching staff sent fans on Twitter into a frenzy. In April, Forte came back to Halas Hall to ink his name on a one-day contract, successfully allowing him to retire as a Bear. Now, Forte wants a lengthier stay in the Windy City.

Ware’s role with Denver is not extensive by any means and, according to Schefter, he will work a pretty scattered schedule with Broncos players. What Forte’s role would look like with the Bears is completely unknown if his plan to coach becomes a reality.

Forte has the running back credentials to take on a coaching position. In eight seasons with the Bears, Forte racked up a combined 8,602 rushing yards, second to only the great Walter Payton. Forte’s 4,116 receiving yards as a running back, 12,718 yards from scrimmage, 24 games with 100 rushing yards and 25 games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage also ranks second behind Payton.

Maybe this will be a new development in Chicago’s offseason plans, but there is no real talk of bringing one of the team’s all-time leading rushers back to the team as of right now.

Last month, NBC Sports Chicago announced Forte will be joining the network as a Bears game day studio analyst for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. And we're not joking about that.