Today we take a look at the linebacker position in our roster projection series to see where they will project on the official depth chart opening week.
Active LBs on the roster:
- Xavier Adibi
- K.C. Asiodu
- Lance Briggs
- Adrien Cole
- Blake Costanzo
- Dom DeCicco
- Geno Hayes
- Nick Roach
- J.T. Thomas
- Ronnie Thornton
- Patrick Trahan
- Brian Urlacher
- Jabara Williams
Projected weak-side LB starter: Lance Briggs
No surprise here; Briggs is arguably the best 4-3 OLB in the league and a perennial Pro Bowler. At 32 years-old, Briggs still displays that sideline-to-sideline speed that makes opposing QBs and RBs take him into account.
You can make a case that Briggs is the best LB on the team, with him and Brian Urlacher perhaps the best linebacker duo in the league.
The reports coming out of camp are that Briggs is in the best shape he’s ever been in throughout his career, and he’s backing that up making standout plays in practice, specifically in the passing game. Barring injury, expect another great season from Briggs in 2012
Projected middle LB starter: Brian Urlacher
Urlacher has missed numerous of practices this year with a sore knee and his “personal reasons,” but there are very few players on this team I wouldn’t worry about not being ready for the start of the season; Brian is in that group.
On the other hand, I can't help to think, heading into a contract year, that this might be the last year we see Urlacher in a Bears uniform. Being 34-years old, coming off a torn MCL and PCL injury is a bad combination. You don’t really want to invest a lot of money in a player that age coming off an injury that extreme.
However, for this season the Bears will need Urlacher if they want any shot at contending for a Super Bowl.
Projected strong-side starter: Nick Roach
When Geno Hayes signed with the team, most fans automatically penciled him in as starter at the SLB position. Hayes has gotten a lot of looks with the first-team, but much of that has to do with Urlacher’s absence from practice (Roach is the primary back-up at MLB).
Before Urlacher was having issues with his knee in practice, Roach was the primary starter at SLB.
Roach is underrated in this defense mainly because the Bears are in their nickel formation most of the time, and Roach is subbed-out for NB D.J. Moore. When Roach is in the game, he displays good quickness and speed to run with just about any TE in the league. What separates him from Hayes is that he is a far superior run defender, and a more physical player. Expect Roach to be the starter come Week-1 against the Colts.
Geno Hayes – Hayes’ strong suit as a LB is in coverage, but he’s reportedly making strides as a run stopper every day in camp. Hayes gives the Bears pretty good depth at both weak- and strong-side LB.
Dom Decicco – Although DeCicco will reportedly be out for a while with a hamstring injury, I think he will make the team. He is a project and has been coming along well in training camp, and he was being talked up as a potential Urlacher replacement down the line.
Blake Costanzo – I’m going to echo BearReport.com publisher Jeremy Stoltz, in that you don’t want to see Costanzo out there playing defense at any point this season. He is mainly here for special teams purposes, where he stood out in San Francisco.
J.T. Thomas – Thomas impressed the hell out of me in the preseason opener against the Broncos. He was everywhere around the ball, displaying more + plays than – ones. I might be jumping the gun a little, but J.T. Thomas has the potential to be a starter in this defense down the line.
Overall Analysis of the linebacker position:
The Bears are in much better shape with LB depth compared to last season. Last season they couldn’t afford for Urlacher or Briggs to miss one or two weeks. This season they will be a decent shape if such a thing should occur.
Briggs is the truth, and we know what we are going to get from him this season. Roach is a solid football player you can count on whenever the Bears are in their base 4-3 defense.
Urlacher is the heart in soul of this defense. Even if he won’t be 100% throughout the season, a 75% Urlacher is still better than most MLBs in the league.
Top to bottom, this year’s group trumps last year’s, who were fortunate not to suffer significant injury until the last game of the season.
Current standing: Great