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Chicago Bears 2018 Position Battles: Starting outside linebacker desperately needed

Next up in our position by position look at the Chicago Bears’ training camp battles is the outside linebackers.

NFL: Chicago Bears-OTA Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

This wasn’t the strongest draft for pass rushing outside linebackers considering where the Chicago Bears were picking. The free agent class wasn’t the best at that position either, so the Bears were forced to shop in the discount bin, so to speak. That’s not to say the guys they picked up can’t be contributors, but in looking at their pick-ups, it’s safe to say they grabbed a couple reclamation projects.

But that’s fine. There is some upside in these guys, but the depth at the position could prove to be a problem if at least one of these players can’t come through and become a part of the rotation.

Roster Locks

Leonard Floyd has been having a nice camp so far, and his first step quickness has proven to be a problem for the Bears’ tackles. Health is the only thing holding him back from a double digit sack season.

Rookie Kylie Fitts garnered some positive mention from head coach Matt Nagy earlier this week, but staying healthy was an issue for him during his time at Utah. That’s a big reason he was a day three draft pick. He’s healthy right now, after being banged up in 2016 and 2017, so his athleticism is flashing at camp. Fitts has a high ceiling in my opinion, and if he can put it all together I think he’ll eventually be a starter for the Bears. It just may not be this year.

Sam Acho was actually second on the Bears last year with 18 quarterback hits. When he took over as a starter half way through the season, I thought he played the best football of his Bears’ career. People forget that Acho had seven sacks as a rookie in 2011 with the Cardinals, and he was solid in 2012 too before tearing up his knee. Acho has made it a point to work on his pass rush repertoire this offseason, so maybe he’s about to have his breakout at 29-years old.

A good bet to make it

If Aaron Lynch can get healthy, he’s probably a lock, but he hasn’t been healthy during his short Bears’ career. I liked the signing when the Bears made it because reuniting him with Vic Fangio made perfect sense, but I’m in the ‘I’ll believe it when I see’ mode when it comes to Lynch.

On the bubble

Isaiah Irving had a decent preseason last year with the Bears, and he was a late season call up from the practice squad. If the Bears decide to carry five at the position I like his chances, but if they only go four he may end up a practice squad candidate again.

The Bears list Jonathan Anderson at outside linebacker this offseason after being listed on the inside previously. At 6’3”, 237 pounds he a little smaller than what they usually have at the position, but he was a 4.54 forty guy at his 2015 TCU pro day. He’s been a good special teamer for the Bears, so maybe he’s trying to prove his versatility to the coaching staff.

Veteran Kasim Edebali will also try and stick by virtue of the third phase. He did have five sacks in 2015 with the Saints, so he’ll hope to flash in preseason.

Andrew Trumbetti is an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame who is transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker. If he shows promise at his new position he could land a spot on the practice squad.

Elijah Norris is another college defensive end making the switch to OLB. He had six sacks last year as a senior at Shepherd.