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Breaking Down the Bears: Going to the tape on Danny Trevathan

After hearing some suggest that Danny Trevathan ought to be traded, Robert S. dives into his film to prove he should stay

Seattle Seahawks v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

So it came to my attention recently that some people think that the Bears ought to trade Danny Trevathan this offseason. Considering that I just happened to be studying Danny’s tape when I heard this, I felt it was a good time to show y’all the gist of what I’ve found so far. Spoiler alert: trading him would be a bad idea.

If I asked you to name Bears defensive players, you might think of 7 or more players before mentioning Danny Trevathan. Between 4 Pro-Bowlers, a rookie linebacking stud, and a loaded overall defense, it’s easy to forget how much the Bears’ signal caller does on a play-to-play basis. But make no mistake: this D needs him, and throughout this breakdown I intend to prove why.

This article will be filled to the brim with gifs and video links — I know the videos have trouble playing on some platforms, so I’ll be linking the videos to text as well. In case links don’t show up properly either, simply click on the italicized portion of each paragraph — that’ll take you to the play in question. Without any further ado, let’s break down this Bear.

As an old-school field general, Trev plays with his teammates in mind — often at his own glory’s expense. He’s the yang to the Bears’ D’s yin, calling the defense, keeping them organized, and guarding their backs from trickery. This play shows Trev immediately spot GB’s TE (#84) moving against the flow of the offense, sprint to coverage, and make a great open-field tackle.

This next play shows him make a beautiful read – after adjusting the defense to account for SF’s motion, Trevathan catches Mullins’ eyes looking left while the offense flows to the right. Trev then identifies the in-breaking receiver and shuts the play down. Slo-Mo provided after the initial play.

Trevathan’s awareness doesn’t just help him in coverage though -- this play shows Trevathan blitz, identify Wilson’s running lane, and immediately disengage to fill it. When Wilson pauses at the top of the pocket, Trevathan takes advantage of his hesitation and forces a fumble. Great play by the linebacker.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know how he sees what he sees. I’ve probably watched this play roughly 10 times (from multiple angles) and still can’t figure out how Danny picks out Barkely amidst the crowd. Makes a movie-like flying tackle.

Trevathan seems to perfectly understands zone coverage – watch how he shifts his zone laterally in exact accordance with Goff’s movement, completely taking away Cook’s deep post route and forcing the throw underneath. This neuters an otherwise dangerous play and creates a quick stop.

Let’s look at more zone work -- this play shows Trevathan sink backwards with Jimmy Graham, identify where Rodgers wants to throw it, and use his positioning to force the throw high. He knows he has DB help, so he stays underneath and forces Rodgers into a tougher throw.

Trevathan isn’t just a zone linebacker though -- the same game (Week 1) shows him running step-for-step with Graham down the sidelines, denying a touchdown opportunity. Trevathan’s feet are quick enough for man coverage and the Bears make good use of them.

If you’re not yet convinced of his coverage abilities, the easiest way to notice Trevathan’s defensive impact is to look at the defense without him. Slower linebackers in coverage create easy yardage opportunities for offenses over the middle – lose just one step and your man is gone. You can’t allow that.

It’s Trevathan’s play recognition and acceleration that allow him to keep pace with speedy receivers, adjusting his zones to match their routes. He consistently puts himself in position to make plays on throws over the middle using the speed and anticipation evident here.

It should be noted that Trevathan, while great in coverage, can’t blanket smaller receivers forever – if a play gets extended, he’ll eventually lose a footrace over the middle. This 5-second throwing window gives Montgomery too much time and he escapes for big yardage.

Linebackers can’t simply be good in coverage, they’ve got to play the run well too. This is one area that I think Trevathan separates himself from others in – plenty of “coverage” LBs struggle on the ground, but Trevathan is able to consistently bring down runners. Shoots gaps well.

His awareness is evident in the ground game too – This play shows Trevathan read Rodgers’s dropback, spot the handoff, disengage from coverage and stuff this run beautifully. Check out Jones’ hole when Roquan gets blocked – Jones has a lane but Trevathan slams the door shut.

His speed and tackling prowess force offenses to account for him, but you can’t block him with anyone – he’s strong enough against TEs that you have to block him with a lineman to create a hole. This play proves it, showing Trev shuck Graham and nullify a nice ground gain.

That said, Trevathan can be neutralized if you commit lineman to him. It’s not really fair to expect a linebacker like him to win against guys ~75 pounds heavier, but for the sake of mentioning “weaknesses” he struggles battling lineman with power. He not going to usually blow lineman back.

This “weakness” brings us to one of my favorite parts of Trevathan’s game – Danny is extraordinarily creative about how he engages the lineman he needs to. Watch him cut low, ducking under the lineman’s block while cleanly getting his arm on the RB to stuff this run. Great stuff.

Trevathan is also very good at disengaging from all kinds of blocks – here he never lets the lineman get his hands on him, breaking away late in the play to help stop the runner. He does this sort of thing all the time, constantly keeping himself available to help his teammates finish tackles.

His ability to disengage comes largely from his upright running style and this play shows its benefits – Trevathan strafes laterally, changes direction quickly, and commits to the tackle at the last moment. His style helps him avoid overcommittment and keeps him in each play.

Danny’s upright style of running does have its drawbacks though – while it grants great lateral movement and change of direction capability, it can take away from his blitz power. This example is fairly hyperbolic, but he makes ineffective moves on this lineman and doesn’t generate any pressure.

But while you’d think that an upright linebacker would give up extra yardage on contact, Trevathan’s tape says otherwise. This play shows him set his feet, wrap cleanly, and stifle the receiver’s momentum when losing yardage would’ve cost a first down. He’s an outstanding tackler.

So, to recap, Trevathan is a team leader with great play recognition that is outstanding in coverage and reliable against the run. He tackles well and keeps his head up, capitalizing on every chance he gets to make a play. Here he leaves Kittle, sets to hit, and secures a perfect bounce.

In short, Trevathan is the perfect ILB for this Bears team. His “safety-like” style of play allows the defense to stay aggressive while forcing a no-win scenario for the offense: if you don’t account for him, he’ll beat you himself. If you attack him, one of his teammates will beat you instead.

He’s a leader, a beast, and he’s not done with the Bears yet.