The conversations center around two positions when talking about the biggest weaknesses of the Chicago Bears’ current roster. One is the offensive line, and the other is wide receiver. That makes sense. Outside of Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick, they have no definitive starters up front. Darnell Mooney is good. Byron Pringle might be fine. Everybody else is totally unproven. Not enough people are talking about another position.
Without intending to do so, Courtney Cronin of ESPN shone a bright light on it with her latest roster projection. There weren’t too many surprises. Most position groups settled in as expected. The big red flag comes when evaluating the situation at linebacker. Everybody knows Roquan Smith is a star. That isn’t likely to change. Where it gets concerning is the situation beyond him. On paper, it doesn’t look pleasant.
“LINEBACKER (5): Roquan Smith, Nicholas Morrow, Matthew Adams, Joe Thomas, Caleb Johnson
Smith makes everything go on defense. The Bears brought Morrow in to play alongside him, though coaches haven’t publicly declared who will handle the middle and weakside linebacker roles. With so many other positions that have question marks, linebacker seems relatively stable as is.”
People aren’t thinking about this because it isn’t considered a priority.
That is fine. It’s an offensively-driven league. Still, considering the strength of the running games in the NFC North alone, this feels like a problem. Morrow hasn’t played an NFL snap since 2020, and that was with a different team. Adams spent most of his time in Indianapolis as a backup and special teams ace. Thomas is a journeyman who has played for four other teams. Johnson was exclusively a special teams guy last year.
Even Smith is an uncertainty because he’s spent his entire career in a 3-4 defense as an inside linebacker. Now he will have a new position in Matt Eberflus’ 4-3. That is a lot. Eberflus is a linebacker guy so one can give him the benefit of the doubt in this, but as the depth chart looks right now, it’s hard not to feel like this position will be a problem if either Smith or Morrow gets hurt.
Chicago Bears may have to deal with this for one season.
They aren’t really in a great position to fix the problem. That happens when a team has several roster holes and not enough resources to fill them. GM Ryan Poles had to make a sacrifice somewhere. It appears linebacker was the one. While the Bears were cheap at other positions, none saw a tighter budget than that. Every new addition arrived on one-year deals. The implications of that are pretty clear.
There is a strong likelihood the Chicago Bears will revamp the entire position next offseason when they have more money and draft flexibility.
Until then, it will be an evaluation process.
Poles and Eberflus need to get Smith extended before the regular season begins. Their best window lay before the start of training camp. Then they’ll want to see if Morrow is worth keeping around longer than this year. He played good football before his unfortunate injury in Las Vegas two years ago. There is still a chance they might make one more addition to the team during final cuts in August. That will be something to watch. If things stay as they are, it could be hard to watch this group play for most of 2022.
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