I literally have no idea who will be starting at inside linebacker for the Chicago Bears in 2015.
We've talked about the differences of the Mike and Jack ILB in Vic Fangio's scheme, but there's not one player on the current roster that stands out as a sure fire day 1 starter.
So since there's so much unknown at this point, coming in at #8 in my Ten Most Important Bears is whichever two guys end up starting at inside linebacker.
New Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has always had solid players at ILB in his 3-4 defenses. His first stint coordinating a 30 front D was with Carolina in the mid-late 90s and he had veteran Pro Bowler Sam Mills quarterbacking his defense. As the D.C. in Houston, he had Jamie Sharper average 145 tackles a year from 2002-2004. Then in San Francisco he had NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis.
In looking at the group of Bears vying for the starting ILB spots, I don't see anyone primed to play at a Pro Bowl level. Then again, I don't think anyone expected Chris Borland to step in last year as a 3rd round rookie and rack up 107 tackles filling in at ILB for the 49ers.
Fangio and head coach John Fox may already have a good idea on the two guys that will line up week 1, but until we know, here are the four most likely candidates.
Shea McClellin (6'3", 245) - I thought McClellin finally found a home as a 4-3 Sam OLB last year, but with a scheme change, he's on to his 3rd position in as many years. So far McClellin has taken advantage of his offseason reps and has impressed the coaching staff.
Jon Bostic (6'1", 245) - Bostic may have the most upside of all the candidates, but he's yet to practice for the new coaching regime. When asked what he's seen of Bostic so far, John Fox said, "Nothing. He hasn't been at practice." If Bostic's lingering back issues aren't cleared up before training camp opens, I can see him buried on the depth chart.
Mason Foster (6'1", 241) - Foster has the most linebacking experience among the candidates, but his 54 NFL starts came as a 4-3 Mike. He hasn't been anything special during his 4 years in Tampa Bay, but maybe a scheme change will do his career good. Coming out of college many scouts pegged him as a 3-4 ILB.
Christian Jones (6'3", 240) - Jones is the wildcard in the group, because as an undrafted free agent last year he produced when given a chance to play. If he takes to the position change, and if the game slows down for him as a 2nd year player, Jones has the physical traits to man the Jack ILB spot in Fangio's D.
How do you see the inside linebacker battle shaping up for the Bears?