UA-59049186-1 Chicago Bears 2023 Season Preview: Linebacker - Good if it Goes

Chicago Bears 2023 Season Preview: Linebacker

Now in a nicer shade of blue. [Photo: Yahoo Sports]

The Chicago Bears and linebackers. One of those great combinations like peanut butter and jelly, Peanut and punch, Aaron Rodgers and choking in the playoffs, you get the picture. We’ve had some great ones come through here: Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs. Roquan Smith was on track to be the next name on that list until he was traded to Baltimore last year. Recognizing the need at linebacker, Ryan Poles actually broke out the checkbook and brought in Tremaine Edmunds. 

Edmunds, a sixth-year man out of Virginia Tech, was a member of the same draft class as Roquan Smith and there were many Bear fans at the time who wanted the Hokie. As it turned out, both turned out to be great. Edmunds is bigger and longer than Smith, measuring 6’5 and weighing in at 250 pounds. Edmunds will patrol the middle in Matt Eberflus’ defense. A tall man with speed and ball skills who can lay the wood playing MIKE in the Tampa-2. We have seen this before and it was good. To be clear, Edmunds is not Urlacher. But he figures to be a forceful presence in the middle of the defense.

Next to Edmunds will be T.J. Edwards, which I’m sure will not result in any confusion whatsoever. The fifth-year man out of Wisconsin spent the first four seasons of his career in Philadelphia, where he really came into his own as a tackling machine the last couple years. Edwards has great instincts, a nose for the ball, and enough athleticism to play against the run as a WILL* in the Tampa-2. And he’s here on a very team-friendly contract. This former Badger may be the most underrated acquisition of the offseason. 

(This space, and any other space your author is in charge of, refers to the non-MIKE inside linebacker in nickel sets as the WILL, regardless of if he’s actually on the weak side or not. There are many potential names for this position, this is the one your author was taught, so it’s the one he uses. SAM, which will come up in this next bit, is a run stopper, who appears against heavier sets and is usually on the strong side.)

Jack Sanborn was last year’s training camp darling and had many Bears fans clamoring for him even before Roquan got traded. After he was traded, some fans, including some who really should’ve known better, tried claiming that he’s actually better than Roquan, at least in Eberflus’ defense. He is not. This was always silly and then looked full-blown ridiculous after Poles handed out his lone big contract of free agency to replace him. Sanborn would be a great linebacker had he been born 20 years earlier. These days, he’s a SAM and pretty much only a SAM because he is a flat-out liability in coverage. He can be valuable as a SAM thanks to his instincts and tackling ability, but while he plays faster than he really is, he still just doesn’t possess the athleticism to handle everything modern every down linebackers need to be able to do. 

Noah Sewell was a fifth-round pick out of Oregon in this year’s NFL draft. Sewell has Sanborn’s size and ability to attack against the run, but with more athleticism to let him hang with modern tight ends. His angles could use some work, but his upside overall is quite high.

Whatever Elmo’s calling it nowThreads: @312sportsguy

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