INDIANAPOLIS – Minicamps and OTAs are still months away and exact details of the 2014 “new” Bears defense are still in the formative stages, but two position battles are already in motion involving three Bears linebackers of the future: Jonathan Bostic, Khaseem Greene, Shea McClellin.
And right now, no linebacker is assured of a job outside of Lance Briggs, the fixture at weakside linebacker. James Anderson’s absence from comments Thursday points to him not being re-signed in Chicago.
McClellin not only will move from strictly defensive end to linebacker, initially at strong side, but also be involved in a competition with Jonathan Bostic for the No. 1 middle linebacker spot. And McClellin projects to be a three-down player, working as primarily as an edge rusher in passing situations.
A hybrid MLB-DE role for McClellin would not be a Bears first. Bryan Cox was a free-agent signing in 1996, installed as the starting middle linebacker and moved to end as an edge rusher in nickel situations.
“Coming out [of Boise State], Reggie [Herring, linebackers coach] evaluated him and thought he had the ability and the skill set to be a very good linebacker in the National Football League,” said general manager Phil Emery. “And that was great to hear and great to know…
“[McClelliin] is a perfect candidate to be on the field all downs in some capacity, whether that is blitzing, rushing, playing against the run in run personnel but he is going to have to compete for his job. He’s going to have to win that job. He could win that job at ‘Sam.’ He could win that job at ‘Mike.’”
Bostic may be ticketed eventually for the No. 1 weakside position. But he took over at middle linebacker when D.J. Williams went down with a season-ending chest injury, and while the Bears have not ruled out re-signing Williams, the competition now is between Bostic and McClellin.
“We expect Jon to be both a Mike and have the ability to compete at the Sam linebacker as well and learn both positions,” coach Marc Trestman said.
Greene started in place of Briggs when the latter was out with a shoulder injury last season. His is the hardest climb toward a starting job this offseason.