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Chicago Bears 2017 Position Battles: Health is the key to the outside linebackers thriving

Denver Broncos v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There’s a lot of talent among the outside linebackers of the Chicago Bears, but we haven’t always seen it flourish on the field. Injuries have terrorized the position ever since they made the switch to the 30 front defense of Vic Fangio. I still think the position is lacking one more speedy edge rusher to compliment the group, but if these guys can all stay healthy, we could see some fantastic sack numbers this season.

Roster Locks

Leonard Floyd, if he can stay off the trainers table, will have double digit sacks and push for a Pro Bowl spot. Pernell McPhee, if he can stay off the trainers table, has an outside shot at the Pro Bowl as well. Floyd flashed his athleticism and pass rush prowess in the twelve games he played in. He spent his off season working to bulk up and hone his technique, and he’s looked like a player on the cusp of super-stardom in training camp. He also wasted no time in making a play in the preseason opener, with a sack on Denver’s first play from scrimmage.

“It was a good start, but there’s still some errors I made,” Floyd said via “Got to watch the film, go in and practice and just get better. Keep chopping wood.”

McPhee missed seven games last year and was hobbled the second half of the 2015 season. When he’s on the field and healthy, he’s a difference maker.

Willie Young is another lock. He added 7.5 sacks last year while playing the most OLB snaps on the roster. I think the Bears would rather he be the super sub and play in spurts.

A good bet to make it

I like how Sam Acho plays football. He reminds me of ex-Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer, in that he’s a smart player that understands his responsibilities, and he also thrives in the third phase. Last year he played 46.4% of the snaps on D, and 61.7% of the snaps on special teams.

Lamarr Houston is another of the guys that has struggled with his health. He missed most of last year, but we saw what he could do in the second half of the 2015 season when he had seven sacks in the team’s last nine games. There’s still a chance he’s a cap casualty, but unless the Bears desperately needs an extra $6 million, I think he sticks around.

I’ll also mention OLB/ILB Christian Jones over here, because his versatility makes him likely to stick on the 53 man roster.

On the bubble

Dan Skuta provides some of the same flexibility that Jones does, but if the Bears only carry one OLB/ILB, I think it’s Jones.

UDFAs Hendrick Ekpe, Isaiah Irving, and Alex Scearce are all practice squad candidates.