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Chicago Bears 2019 Position Battles: Do they have the best inside linebacker duo in the NFL?

Our 11-part Bears training camp preview series is all about the inside linebackers today.

NFL: SEP 17 Seahawks at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Roster Locks

Every time someone writes that the Chicago Bears’ defense is sure to regress in 2019, I wonder if they realize that Roquan Smith had 121 tackles, 5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, and an interception as a 21-year old rookie with no training camp a year ago. Smith has super star potential, and he and Danny Trevathan make up the best 3-4 inside linebacker tandem in the NFL.

Trevathan racked up 102 tackles of his own as he played the best season of his three year Bears’ career, while still providing quality leadership on the field. There’s some chatter that this could be his last year in Chicago since his contract is set to expire, but if he has another outstanding season I think the Bears try to bring him back.

“He’s one of the hardest working guys out here,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said via the team’s website. “He knows the system inside and out. He’s one of the first guys in. He’s the last guy to leave. He does a great job from an accountability standpoint.”

I think the Bears would like 2017 fourth-round draft pick Joel Iyiegbuniwe to step up and become the first inside backer off the bench, but after playing sparingly on defense a year ago, he’ll need a good camp to earn the coaches trust. His scouting report coming out of Western Kentucky gave coverage as one of his strengths, and that’s what he’ll need to show at Bourbonnais.

Iggy also had a big offseason in the weight room and he’s no doubt up from the 230 pounds he was listed at a year ago.

A good bet to make it

The Bears opened week one with four ILBs, and that’s probably what they’ll do again, so I think veteran has the edge. Teams have exposed him in coverage, but he’s a physical player and he’s done a good job in the third phase.

On the bubble

The remaining inside linebackers on the roster have an uphill battle to stick, but if any of them can come close to what Kwiatkoski brings, then Kwit could be a cap casualty since he’s making about $2 million in 2019.

Kevin Pierre-Louis is a veteran with plenty of special teams experience that has a history with head coach Matt Nagy. When I was at camp on Sunday, Pierre-Louis made a few plays.

The Bears brought in Jameer Thurman after two years in the CFL where he played both defense and special teams with the Calgary Stampeders. He was a safety at Indiana State, and he’s also a local kid from Proviso West High School and Hillside, Illinois.

In Larry Mayer’s recent linebacker preview article on, he mentions that Josh Woods, who was a practice squad ILB a year ago, is playing outside linebacker, but so far he’s been running as a reserve inside backer. And when I was there on Sunday, Woods stood out in a positive way.


Will Nick Kwiatkoski make the Bears’ 53-man roster?

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