Twp years ago the Chicago Bears only kept five linebackers for their opening day roster, and last year they went with seven. The reason they went with so many in 2012, was to cover themselves with a hobbled Brian Urlacher. This year they may have a hobbled D.J. Williams to be concerned with, so keeping six or even seven is a possibility.
Looking at the Bears linebacker depth, you have quite a few locks. All three projected starters are obvious, as is the second round draft pick.
Lance Briggs is one of the best 4-3 OLBs in the game today, and he's added some leadership responsibilities to his game day, by taking on the role of play caller in the defensive huddle. With the experienced Briggs' voice replacing Urlacher's we shouldn't see much of a drop off in pre-snap calls and adjustments. They'll be a getting used to period for Briggs and the D, but I expect him to settle into his role fairly quick.
D.J. Williams has been slowed by a strained calf, but it is an injury he'll come back from. It just takes time. Once he's back he could resume starting in the middle, or if rookie Jonathan Bostic shows he's the real deal, D.J. will provide valuable experience as a back up.
Strong side backer James Anderson has had a quiet camp, but it's quiet in the way a veteran just goes about his business. The Bears are very happy with how he's fit in with the D.
The Bears have 11 LBs on the current roster, and with these four locks, that leaves seven players battling for perhaps two spots.
A good bet to make it
The Bears have a mix of veterans and rookies among the seven fighting for a place on the team. They have a few guys that are practice squad eligible, and a few guys that have proven themselves as special teamers. They also don't have anyone that is a safe bet to make the roster. I think the rest of the linebackers need to show the new coaching regime they deserve a spot on the final 53.
On the Bubble
I'll rank the bubble guys in the order of who I think has the best chance at sticking around.
Blake Costanzo was signed because of his exceptional special teams ability, but he's also looked solid playing as a back up LB. The depth chart has him as the back up Sam, but he played in the middle last preseason. He was the player I was closest to throw in the "good bet" category.
Rookie Khaseem Green fell in the draft because scouts thought he was a product of his college system system. As the Will OLB in Rutgers' Tampa 2 defense, he made perfect sense for the Bears to draft him. He's currently behind Briggs an the depth chart, but he'll have to flash some play making skills during the preseason to ensure his spot on the team.
J.T. Thomas is slotted as the number three strong side linebacker, but he has the speed to play the weak side. He was also a solid special teamer last season.
This will be Patrick Trahan's 3rd season with the Bears. They cut him a couple times in the past, so his spot is far from guaranteed.
Jerry Franklin is at the #4 WOLB, and he'll probably have to show the versatility to play inside to make an impression. The Bears are his 4th team since being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Broncos in 2012.
Chicago is Lawrence Wilson's 4th spot on his NFL odyssey, and unless he really shines in preseason, he'll be adding a 5th stop on his resume. He's currently the 3rd string Mike, but at 6'1" 229, he might be too slight to remain in the middle.
Andrew Starks was a late add to camp, and he'll be fortunate if he can show enough to find a home on the practice squad.
Who do you think sticks on the roster?
Be sure to check out the full 11 part story stream in case you missed any position battles.
More from Windy City Gridiron:
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- Chicago Bears 2013 Position Battles: Cornerback
- Bears Playbook - Luke Kuechly Versus Jay Cutler
- Chicago Bears 2013 Position Battles: Safety
- Pleased to Meet You: Preseason Week 1, Carolina Panthers
- NFL Preseason 2013: TV times, schedules, and game previews (Open Thread)
- Chicago Bears 2013 Position Battles: Defensive End