clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bears Training Camp Preview: Can the holdover defensive ends smoothly transition to outside linebacker?

With the Chicago Bears finally getting on the practice field today (YAY!!!), we'll take a look at the last position group in our Roster Battles series, outside linebacker.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

(Edited on 8/12/15 to reflect the roster moves during training camp)

Yesterday we went over two thirds of the front seven when we discussed the defensive line and the inside linebackers. Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio may not have the exact type of player he wants at every position for his 3-4 D yet, but he's been masterful throughout his coaching career in getting the most from his players.

Some of the defensive end to outside linebacker converts still may end up playing some in a 40 front look, which could affect he numbers at the position. There are a couple players that may not be 100% healthy when the season opens up that could affect the numbers as well.

Here's a look at what the 49ers kept at linebacker and the defensive line with Fangio running their defense.

2014 4 4 6 2
2013 5 5 3 3
2012 3 4 4 3
2011 4 5 5 2

With the Bears transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 I don't see them keeping any less than five outside linebackers. They may even push to six OLBs and carry less defensive ends.

Roster locks

Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho are the only two players on the roster that have actually played 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Lamarr Houston was used from a 2 point stance on occasion with the Raiders a couple years ago, but they were still running a 40 front base defense. Houston has been cleared to practice, but he mat not be game ready quite yet.

I would expect McPhee to be the centerpiece of the defense and to play all over the place for Fangio. He can win one on one battles anywhere along the line of scrimmage and Fangio will use that to his advantage.

Acho has 32 starts at OLB in his four year career, but only 6 in the last two seasons. His experience with a 3-4 should keep him around.

I can see Fangio using Houston in a similar fashion to that of McPhee. During the 2013 season, Houston dropped into pass coverage 39 times and in 2012 he dropped back 23 times. He has always looked comfortable playing from both a 2 and a 3 point stance and he can play on the right or the left side.

Jared Allen is one of the beter 4-3 defensive ends in the history of the NFL with 134 sacks and counting, but the Bears are asking him to play OLB now. Keep in mind that Allen's job is still going to be rushing the passer, so it's not that big of a change for him. He even averaged about 20 plays per year dropping into coverage while a member of the Vikings, so it is something he's done before.

A good bet to make it

I really think David Bass has a good chance to sneak onto the roster. He may get caught up in a numbers game, but the coaches were happy with his work this offseason.

Willie Young, who I had in the lock category before camp started, was the Bears' sack leader in 2014, but he has to make it all the way back from an Achilles injury and change positions to boot. Like Houston, Young has been cleared to practice, but at what speed is yet to be determined.

On the bubble

Undrafted free agent Kyle Woestmann will hope to stick around on the practice squad. He was a defensive end at Vanderbilt until they moved him to OLB as a senior. He's not the best athlete, but he has a high motor and was a team captain in college.

The Bears traded for Matthew Wells an dhe has the kind of athleticism that will be tough to part ways with. The 6'2", 215 pounder could be a key special teams contributor.

How many outside linebackers do you think the Bears will open the season with?