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Who will be the first inside linebacker off the bench?

The WCG staff is running through some Bears training camp topics in a round table format this week, and we’re sticking with the defense on question number three...

NFL: Preseason-Chicago Bears at New York Giants Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

After hitting on the cornerback spot opposite Kyle Fuller and the safety starter alongside Eddie Jackson, we’re staying on the defensive side of the ball for our next Chicago Bears round table topic.

Who will be the first inside linebacker off the bench?

While Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith make up one of the better inside linebacker tandems in the entire NFL, they have both also missed some time during their Bears’ careers. The inside backers behind these two have accounted for a grand total of 26 snaps on defense in their collective NFL careers.

So who will it be the ILB3?

I’ll give my take after checking in with my WCG teammates.

Robert Schmitz: I think it’ll depend on which linebacker needs substituting — much like how Nick Kwiatkoski was Danny Trevathan’s backup in 2019 (the “Mike” LB), I expect Josh Woods to back up Trevathan with Joel Iyiegbuniwe backing up Roquan Smith. While Iyiegbuniwe lacks football sense, he’s undoubtedly athletic and skilled in coverage, making him much more of a fit at that “Will” LB spot than the slower-footed Woods. On the other hand, Woods is a heady player that’s more than willing to take on lineman against the run, making him ideal for the “Mike” LB spot. Regardless of their skillsets, both players are significant downgrades from their 2020 starters, so hopefully the only time we see them is while watching special teams.

Jacob Infante: I’ll go with Josh Woods. The Bears clearly see something in him, as they’ve been patient in keeping him on the roster as he’s bulked up and adjusted to the linebacker position. While Joel “Iggy” Iyiegbuniwe has the luxury of being a fourth-round pick just two years ago, my gut says Woods would be the first man up were Trevathan or Smith to get hurt.

Aaron Leming: Unlike last year, this could be a serious weak point for the Bears in 2020. Last year, Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis arguably outplayed either starter they took over for. This year, more than ever, the Bears better hope their two starters stay healthy because there’s a bevy of inexperience behind them. Purely due to draft status, I’ll take Iggy as the first guy off the bench but there’s very little confidence with that take. While I still don’t understand why Pace felt the need to take him in the fourth round, I still think he has the slightly better set of tools to fill in if one of the two starters go down. With that being said, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous if either him or Woods has to step off the bench and onto the field for any sort of meaningful snaps this season.

Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter: I’m rolling with Josh Woods. He’s a project as he’s transitioning from DB to ILB and added at least 30 pounds of muscle so far into the process. The depth behind Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan is fairly green orange, Woods strikes me as the player with the most raw potential that can use some live snaps to continue their development.

Ken Mitchell: Josh Woods. I think Woods is a legit talent who will show that as he gets a chance to play.

Robert Zeglinski: Unless he falls off a cliff, it’s Joel Iyiebuniwe and everyone else. A less polished player like Rashad Smith has to earn his keep before he’s Roquan Smith or Danny Trevathan’s understudy. This isn’t to say Iyiegbuniwe has done much to merit a comfortable No. 3 role. That’s the magic of continuity when talent isn’t as noticeable.

WhiskeyRanger: Oof. Neither Woods or Iggy are home runs here, as both are certainly still developing. Iggy hasn’t played much in two years, and Woods coming off his first season at the position (after spending a year on the practice squad bulking up). Honestly, I’m with Robert S. here in that I think who comes off first will probably be situational.

Jack Salo: I’ll be that guy here, and say that I won’t give up on the idea that the Bears can use Iggy on defense as well as special teams. So far, he’s been a special teams stud and nothing more. I’d like to give him a shot to come off the bench. That said, if a starter goes down long term, the Bears need to look for a free agent.

Bill Zimmerman: I have a feeling that the first inside linebacker off the bench isn’t on the roster yet. I think Ryan Pace will grab a league minimum guy during training camp or when final cutdowns happen in September. I can’t see Josh Woods or Iggy being ILB3 and having any confidence they can handle the job. Danny Trevathan is older and is prone to injury, I would be shocked if their plan is currently on the roster.

Unless Iggy has made significant strides, he seems to be settling in as just a special teams player only. When he’s had potential opportunities to play on Sundays on defense, Chuck Pagano (and Vic Fangio) chose to go in other directions. Woods also hasn’t seen the snaps to be a reliable ILB3 at this point either.

Sam Householder: It’s going to be Joel Iyiebuniwe, for better or worse. There’s so little experience on the depth chart behind Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith that it’s a little scary that the next man up played a whopping three snaps on defense last year. It’s a little hard for me to believe that he’s suddenly going to turn into something he hasn’t shown yet, but at some point you are what you’ve been and that’s where I think Iyiebuniwe is in year three.

Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: Besides the two starters, Iggy is the only Bear that has any experience at ILB (he’s the guy with the aforementioned 26 defensive snaps), so he’s the guy I think comes off the bench first. If Trevathan or Smith suffer a significant injury, and Iggy struggles, then I think a veteran free agent could be acquired. It’s also possible that Woods’ background at safety makes him a candidate to get some ILB reps when the Bears go nickle.


Who will be the first inside linebacker off the bench?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Joel Iyiegbuniwe
    (79 votes)
  • 36%
    Josh Woods
    (86 votes)
  • 30%
    (71 votes)
236 votes total Vote Now