Yesterday we talked about Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio having versatility among his front seven when he coached in San Francisco. Not only did he have versatile players, but he was able to get the most from his talent and he put his players in a position to have success.
Here's a look at the numbers the 49ers kept at linebacker with Fangio running their D.
Having a player or two that can play both inside and outside will obviously affect the numbers, but until we see these guys on the grass, it's tough to know their plans.
Inside linebacker is the most muddled position group on the team. At every other position, you can point to at least one guy and know he'll end up starting, but at ILB, it's all up in the air. Not one player on the roster has 3-4 ILB experience at the NFL level.
When looking over the Bears' roster at ILB I don't see anyone with a Pro Bowl pedigree, which is something Fangio had with the 49ers, but there are a few players that can potentially "break out" in 2015.
I think Christian Jones is the surest lock among the ILBs. He was a solid performer last year as an undrafted rookie, and with a new coaching staff, I think he can really flourish. He may not with a starting job out of the gate, but I think his versatility gets him on the field somehow.
If Mason Foster was given more than the league minimum, I'd feel better about putting him in the locks category. But as the current roster is constructed, I think his roster spot is safe. He has a lot of NFL experience as a middle linebacker for the Bucs, albeit in a 4-3, but I think his skills translate well to what Fangio wants to do.
Even though Jon Bostic has been rehabbing his bad back all offseason, I think he sticks around for the opening 53 man roster. He's too athletic and has too much potential to cut ties with.
A good bet to make it
I know most Bears fans have soured on Shea McClellin, but I thought he was solid last year as a strongside outside linebacker. Now in the midst of another position change, he'll either take his new-found linebacking skills to another level or max out as a back-up/special teamer.
On the bubble
If the Bears carry just 4 ILBs, then these next few guys could be fighting for a practice squad opportunity.
Some scouts thought DeDe Lattimore would be a good fit as a 3-4 two down ILB coming out of South Florida last year. He's the only "experienced" NFL linebacker on the bubble.
Rookie UDFA Jonathan Anderson played safety early in his TCU career, so he may have the coverage chops to stick as a reserve Jack ILB. When I talked with the SB Nation site Frogs O' War about Anderson, they said he was athletic with a high football IQ.
John Timu, another rookie UDFA, was highly productive at Washington. During our 5 Questions With series, we learned that Timu was recruited as a quarterback/safety prospect and he's another with the high football IQ label.
What are your thoughts on inside linebacker? Will the Bears keep 4 or 5 at the position?