The Chicago Bears desperately needed an upgrade at inside linebacker last offseason, and they quickly addressed that by adding Danny Trevathan on a four year deal with $12 million guaranteed. They doubled down on the position with Jerrell Freeman, for three years, and $6 million guaranteed, and these two were supposed to be key figures for Vic Fangio’s defense.
Trevathan was injured a couple times last year, with his knee injury sending him to season ending IR, and Freeman was popped with a four game suspension late in 2016. Even though they only played in nine and twelve games respectively, their presence was felt. The odds are high that Trevathan will miss a little time this season, so Freeman will need to pick up the slack in the middle of Chicago’s defense.
This is a big reason why Freeman is my #3 most important Bear for 2017.
Lining up next to Freeman, if Trevathan can’t go, will be second year player Nick Kwiatkoski. He filled in admirably last year at both ILB spots, but he’s still a young player that will need a veteran presence next to him. Freeman became a vocal leader on the field last season for the Bears, and with another year in the system, his understanding will be at a higher level. “The strengths are knowing and understanding what everybody is doing and then being able to play fast,” Freeman said via CSNChicago. “The pass rush is going to help. The DBs, we’ve got some good new DBs back there. So we’re just able to fly around out there. Being able to fly around is our biggest strength. We’ve got a lot of speed out there. So we can have some fun.”
Freeman mentioned the new defensive backs, but there might be seven new faces in week one’s starting lineup when compared the the eleven that started week one in 2016. Freeman’s veteran leadership and knowledge, will be key in the early part of the 2017 season.
Freeman was playing at an Pro Bowl level last year, and all that slowed him down was that suspension. Despite missing four games, he led the Bears with over 100 tackles and seven tackles for loss. While he played outstanding against the run, he may have been even better against the pass. He didn’t allow a score while back in coverage, and according to Pro Football Focus, he only missed one tackle out of forty while in coverage. Speaking of PFF, he was their highest graded inside linebacker for last year, and their third highest graded defensive player overall.
Jerrell Freeman is ready to shake off the “mistake” he made last year, and make 2017 his best year ever.
Slow motion makes everything look cooler.