With Chicago Bears training camp around the corner, middle linebacker is a position that has remained relatively stable since 2018. The middle of Chicago’s defense will feature linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan once again, while Christian Jones, Josh Woods, Austin Calitro, and Joel Iyiegbuniwe will provide depth.
Smith, despite being snubbed from the Pro Bowl last season will enter training camp as the unquestioned leader of the group. A year after totaling 139 tackles, four sacks, and 18 tackles for loss, Smith will enter year four with a chip on his shoulder. Trevathan is entering year two of a three-year deal signed last offseason, giving Chicago continuity at the position.
As the Bears get ready to report to training camp, what are some questions at the MLB position? Let’s find out.
1) Will a full offseason benefit Trevathan?
Watching 2020 film, it was clear that Trevathan looked noticeably slower over the first six games of the season. Much of this was attributed to the virtual offseason in 2020, limiting on-field work. Entering 2021, with the NFL offseason more normal compared to last year, the hope is that Trevathan shows up to training camp in playing shape and ready to go, especially since the 10-year veteran has played just two full seasons since joining the Bears in 2016.
2) Which depth piece will step up?
Gone are the days of Nick Kwiatkoski holding the fort as MLB3 for the Bears. Chicago will need to rely on Jones, Woods, Calitro, and Iyiegbuniwe for depth, creating a four-way competition. Expect the Bears to carry two of the four players mentioned above. Iyiegbuniwe and Woods were on the team last season while Jones spent four seasons with Chicago from 2014-2017. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai will look to emphasize speed and coverage ability at the MLB position, two necessities for an inside linebacker to be successful in the modern NFL.
3) How good will Smith be under Sean Desai?
“A lot of great things,” Smith said on June 15th via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I like Desai a lot. I think it’s going to be very good and he’s going to put us in a lot of good positions, so I’m looking forward to that.”
As we mentioned above, Smith was snubbed from multiple accolades last year, making 2021 an even more intriguing season for the former first-round pick. Desai’s defense will allow players like Smith to play faster, setting the stage for what could be a career year for Smith, continuing his ascension, becoming one of the NFL’s elite off-ball linebackers.