The Chicago Bears kicked off Free Agency with one of the biggest splash signings in football, signing former Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to a four-year deal worth $72 million.
You’ve likely heard his name before (especially if you were on this site back when we debated drafting him or Roquan Smith), but how well do you know his game? Where does he fit with the Chicago Bears? What should you think about his contract?
In this brief film study, I aim to answer a few of those questions & give you a quick look at what the newest member of the Chicago Bears brings to the team. Let’s dig in!
You can’t talk about Tremaine Edmunds without first talking about how rare a body type like his is, especially at middle linebacker. Given Bears’ HC Matt Eberflus’ love for length at all positions, it’s easy to see why he fell in love with a 6’4.5”, 253lb linebacker with an 83” wingspan that can run a 4.54s 40-yard dash.
Tremaine Edmunds is as Flus a signing as you’ll find — the #Bears get one of the biggest, longest ILBs on the market for a defense that thrives with a big, long star in the middle.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 13, 2023
I’m sure the money will be too much and they still need trench beef, but a splash is a splash. pic.twitter.com/Xl30xo9zDI
Eberflus wants to clog the middle of the field with players that are “big, long, and fast” and Tremaine Edmunds is as pure a combination of those 3 words as you’ll find playing football. Add in decent explosiveness numbers (a 51st percentile broad jump at his size & weight isn’t bad), and you have the athletic foundation for an ideal Mike linebacker within Eberflus’ Cover-2 scheme.
Just watch his movement in the clip below — there aren’t many human beings alive that can drop their hips and explode laterally like Edmunds does to make this 3rd down stop. Those that can aren’t usually 250+ pounds.
#Bears new LB Tremaine Edmunds is an EXPLOSIVE mover.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 14, 2023
Watch him plant, drive, and track down the RB to make this stop on 3rd down. For a 6'5, 250lb man to do that? Sheeeeesh. pic.twitter.com/SBRzIjzBoA
But as we all know, athletic testing doesn’t make a human being good at playing football — how does he look when the pads come on? We’ll break this discussion into two categories: his play against the pass & his play against the run.
Putting it simply, Tremaine Edmunds is Matt Eberflus’ dream coverage linebacker.
- He’s got fabulous “zone eyes” that constantly look for work.
- He pre-emptively drives on common underneath routes that offenses want to hit “in rhythm,” forcing the QB to progress his read & messing up quick-game timing.
- He uses every bit of the athleticism described above when playing the seam in Tampa-2.
- He’s got fluid hips that flash on in-breaking routes (EX: 2nd clip of the reel below)
- He’s situationally aware in his positioning, meaning he looks for quick routes on 2nd/3rd & short, isn’t fooled by underneath routes when the offense needs 10+ yards, etc.
- He’s as sure a tackler as you’ll find, which is especially helpful when tracking down underneath WRs and RBs.
Check out the reel below to see a few examples of the above.
#Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds looks outstandingly comfortable in coverage, or at least he did against the Super Bowl Champs -- his movement toolkit was on full display throughout this game.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 14, 2023
Check out this reel of all kinds of coverage assignments. Super fluid, finds work. pic.twitter.com/BKxFlSWkCs
Edmunds should add quite a bit to the Bears’ pass defense and will likely catalyze a return to using more Cover 2 in 2023 and beyond. He’s a decent blitzer, but nothing special — he’s quick to his lane but easy to block (which is surprising for someone his size), so he primarily provides blitz pressure by raising his arms hear the QB and forcing high launch points.
Moving on, let’s talk about...
Edmunds’ film against the run is... curious to talk about. Mainly because we’ve had this conversation before — he’s extremely similar to watching Roquan Smith.
Edmunds has all the sideline-to-sideline speed you could ask for in a linebacker, so when he’s left unblocked in run pursuit or the blocker assigned to him fails to beat him to the running lane, Edmunds is more than capable of running down the ball carrier and stopping them for minimal gains.
That said, no defensive line can keep their linebackers clean forever, and Edmunds’ issues crop up when things get dirty. Edmunds struggles to stack and shed blockers consistently and often gets blocked out of plays, which is visually unusual to watch considering his size.
He also doesn’t come downhill with the power that you’ll see some linebackers (like TJ Edwards, who’s 20 lbs lighter) apply when engaging OL at the point of attack, which can lead to rushing lanes opening up if Edmunds isn’t supported.
Simply put, playing strong through contact isn’t Edmunds’ game. He’s solid in pursuit roles or when playing far enough off the line that o-linemen don’t reach him easily, but he’s no thumper at the line of scrimmage (despite what his size & speed may suggest).
For as electric as #Bears LB Tremaine Edmunds is when he moves in the open field, it feels like he's hit and miss when taking on blockers.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 14, 2023
When he's kept clean, he's got the side-to-side speed to match anybody in the league. Edwards (a HITTER) should be a great partner for him. pic.twitter.com/LXqX2djKcl
Overall, I like the Tremaine Edmunds signing. I was initially hesitant at the idea of handing a linebacker $18 million per year, but Edmunds is exactly the linebacker Matt Eberflus wants patrolling the short and intermediate middle of his defense, and I can’t fault Ryan Poles for getting his HC his guy.
Also, I doubt that Poles would’ve allowed Eberflus to spend a top-65 draft pick on a linebacker with the team in such dire need of OL & DL help, so Poles effectively saved a draft pick by spending the money.
Edmunds should be fun to watch fly around in a Matt Eberflus defense that I expect will play him at Mike linebacker, a role similar to the one Brian Urlacher played in a Tampa-2 based Lovie Smith defense not so long ago. And speaking of, if you take a look at Brian Urlacher’s athletic testing charts, you may see a few similarities...
Will Tremaine Edmunds live up to Chicago’s linebacking legacy? That’s for him to decide. But coming in at only 25-years-old, I’m excited to see what he can do in 2023 and beyond.