Bears Training Camp Position Preview: Linebackers

The Bears are returning all four starters at the linebacker spot this season

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As the Chicago Bears begin their training camp this week, we’re taking a look at the positional battles that are likely going to develop on the practice fields of Bourbonnais.

Today, we’re taking a look at the team’s linebacker position.

Inside Linebacker:

The starters at this position are pretty well set in stone, as second-year man Roquan Smith and veteran stalwart Danny Trevathan start out the preseason as the set-in-stone favorites to start under the guidance of defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

After taking a bit of time to get under contract before his rookie season, Smith had a strong season up the middle for Chicago, registering five sacks, 121 combined tackles, and an interception in 16 games for the Bears.

Trevathan had a strong season as well, appearing in all 16 games for the Bears for the first time in his tenure and registering 102 combined tackles and two sacks. He also registered eight tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions, as well as a forced fumble.

Trevathan is entering the final season of his contract with the Bears, and will likely be pushing hard to earn a strong new contract in the coming year.

Aside from the starters, the Bears will likely hang onto at least two other players at the position. Nick Kwiatkoski is entering his fourth season with the Bears, and appeared in all 16 games last year, with 15 combined tackles and a quarterback hit. He is a virtual lock to make the roster, as is second-year man Joel Iyiegbuniwe. He had one tackle for loss in 16 games last season, but could see a bit more action in his second pro season.

The big question for the Bears comes beyond those four, as the team may be hesitant to keep a fifth player at the spot. James Vaughters and Jameer Thurman are possibilities, but with Kylie Fitts and Josh Woods angling for a roster spot at outside linebacker, the team may only keep four men in the interior group for the coming year.

Outside Linebacker:

The Bears’ strength at linebacker applies to the outside position as well, with Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd each holding down the fort as returning starters in the team’s system.

To call Mack’s first season with the Bears electrifying would be an understatement, as the highly touted acquisition demolished his way to 12.5 sacks, 47 tackles, and six forced fumbles.

Floyd finally lived up to his potential in his third pro season, appearing in all 16 games and registering four sacks and a career high 47 combined tackles for the Bears. He also had his first career interception and touchdown.

The big question for Floyd will be whether or not he can channel his inner Kyle Fuller and take a huge step forward in a critical contract year for the Bears. The Bears did pick up Floyd’s fifth year option, but he’ll be looking to earn a solid pay bump if he can up his sack total and get to the quarterback more often than he ever has in his career.

Beyond the top two, the Bears are looking for big things from Aaron Lynch, who showed flashes of tremendous play a season ago, and Isaiah Irving, who appeared in 13 games and registered eight tackles last season.

Irving’s spot on the roster could be challenged by second-year man Kylie Fitts and Josh Woods, a 23-year-old looking to make a splash as he tries to crack his first NFL roster.

Odd Men Out:

Ultimately, our prediction is that the Bears will keep four interior linebackers, with Iyiegbuniwe and Kwiatkoski backing up Smith and Trevathan, and we believe the Bears will keep five outside linebackers, with Lynch, Irving, and Fitts making the roster along with Mack and Floyd.

Fans should definitely keep an eye on Vaughters and Jameer Thurman during training camp, as both could sneak onto the bottom portion of the roster out of Bourbonnais.

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